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Published: 11-12-2019

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A Child’s View: Adult Oppression in The Catcher in the Rye and The Member of the Wedding

In novels The Catcher in the Rye and The Member of the Wedding, Salinger, and McCullers both invite the reader to knowledge how the adult planet can have an effect on the lives of young men and women. In certain, the novels describe how their protagonists (Holden Caulfield in Catcher and Frankie in Member) feel oppressed by the constraints and expectations of an adult world. The Catcher in the Rye has an immediacy that could enable it to be viewed as a far more effective portrayal of a child’s perspective, and The Member of the Wedding’s maybe much more convoluted chronology could be mentioned not to lend it such power. But McCullers’ poetic language and underlying metaphors conceivably let it be noticed as just as effective in a distinctly distinct way. This view of an oppressive world is shared by each novels in spite of variations in narrative approach: for instance, Holden is male, although Frankie is female McCullers employs a third-individual narrative voice, while Salinger makes use of the first individual.

From the outset, each novels make it clear that the main protagonist feels in some way oppressed by the environment or atmosphere that surrounds them. In Catcher this is shown through Holden’s irreverent, even rebellious, voice. The initial words are: “If you actually want to hear about it.” This ‘you,’ with which he addresses the reader, engenders sympathy and possibly far more intriguingly prompts concerns of reliability as the reader realizes this is Holden’s subjective interpretation of events. The apparent reluctance of the storyteller to narrate his story is reinforced by a declared lack of want to describe his “lousy childhood,” exactly where he “was born” or how his “parents were occupied… and all that David Copperfield type of crap” – all of which demonstrates a dislike for autobiographical conventions. We are currently in the globe of somebody who feels at odds with his atmosphere and who is in opposition to the conventions of the adult planet surrounding him.

The Member of the Wedding adopts a various strategy. It commences somewhat conventionally with “It occurred that green and crazy summer season when Frankie was twelve years old.” This sentence has a simplicity reminiscent of children’s stories, which raises particular expectations in the reader about the kind of drama that might adhere to. However, alternatively of the innocence of childhood, there is ambiguity in the adjectives “green” and “crazy” atmospheric words that recommend innocence naivety (green) and confusion (crazy). Provided that Frankie is “twelve years old,” the reader may possibly conclude that they are getting presented with a ‘coming of age’ story. In addition, the “it” (the first word) is, of course, elusive to us upon our initial reading. Even by the end of the novel, we are nevertheless unclear what ‘It’ refers to: it could imply the heavily anticipated wedding of Frankie’s brother, or possibly Frankie’s sexual improvement (at the finish of Part II, Frankie (F. Jasmine at this point) nevertheless can not accept the thought of sex, and consequently labels it “crazy” following her evaluation of her sexual encounters).

McCullers’ apparent story-telling conventionality, in contrast to Catcher, is probably additional undermined by underlying metaphors. McCullers utilizes poetic language composed of many achievable meanings. For example, there is an atmospheric depiction of the external globe to indicate Frankie’s internal planet: “In June the trees had been bright dizzy green, but later the leaves darkened, and the town turned black and shrunken under the glare of the sun.”. The descriptions of the climate alone conjure an oppressive atmosphere: the ‘darkened’ leaves and the ‘black and shrunken’ town are each metaphorical of Frankie’s despair. In addition, “green” could be taken as symbolic of the freshness of Frankie’s youth, and “bright dizzy” could be reflective of her uncertainty at a vulnerable stage of development. McCullers, for that reason, does not appear to execute her opening with the immediacy of Catcher, rather quietly rendering her prose with subtle meanings. There is a enormous difficulty in deciding which is a far more potent introduction – Salinger’s intimate and opinionated direct-address, or McCullers’ nicety of prose. The direct-address of Holden grabs the reader’s interest by expressing points that seem sensitive to his society’s oppressive nature without having appearing to be constrained by such oppression, which can be looked at contextually: set in 1949 (post-war America), Holden critiques the equilibrium that the government was struggling to preserve chiefly due to the threat of communism. McCarthyism constrained the actions of several, particularly those in the art, and women were restrained similarly from a career outdoors their property because the supposedly disrupted notion of a family members required to be put proper proceeding the war. It was thought a operating father and stay-at-residence mother was the proper way forward in order to present the idea that function was ‘unwomanly.’ Holden appears to wish to rebel against the aforesaid American ideologies. One particular female acquaintance, Sally, interprets Holden’s want to “escape” as a want to “travel” telling Holden they will have “oodles of time to do all these things… I imply soon after you go to college and all, and if we get married and all”. This could be seen as a passive acceptance of the social conventions of the time, and – in the sense that Sally does not query the unimaginative and probably dull future she has been conditioned to assume is correct – Holden’s concepts are comparatively considerably significantly less inclined to the status quo it appears that he sees such a comfortable future as conforming to a life lacking in surprises.

Reading on, we encounter in both novels a theme of corruption that threatens to impinge on the lives on the protagonists. The objectivity and lack of bias with which McCullers’ third-individual narrative unfolds permit direct, unmediated observation of behavior that is left to the reader to interpret, perhaps psychoanalytically. In Member, pg. 33 (Component I), there is a “queer sin” that Frankie is said to have committed with a Barney MacKean whom she hates so a lot that she “planned to kill him… shoot him with the pistol or throw a knife amongst his eyes”, but this does not necessarily mean Frankie resents Barney. Instead, this could be study as resentment or defensiveness masking fear and guilt for what she has completed she feels corrupted. Symptoms of her sense of corruption are continued throughout Portion I: “she could not name the feeling in her.” The reader can sense Frankie’s tension – she is becoming oppressed by feelings too complicated for her age. In addition, as a result of the narrative’s authenticity, that is we trust the third-person narrative simply because it seems unbiased, the reader can sense Frankie’s higher level of perceptivity in relation to Holden, who could be stated to be as well possessed by his personal despair and anger in order to perceive the globe accurately.

In Catcher, Holden sees corruption all around him. Of his brother, he says “D.B., becoming a prostitute… out in Hollywood”. The implication is that D.B. – as an author – has not been true to his art getting been seduced by material wealth. Of course, D.B. has not necessarily sold-out by going to Hollywood – Holden could rather be masking his true feels it is most likely that he is missing his brother, specifically because he no longer has Allie, his brother, who died. Holden goes on to express his dislike for “phonies,” like his old headmaster, Mr. Haas, who he calls “the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life… [who] if a boy’s mother was sort of fat… would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he’d go speak, for possibly half an hour, with somebody else’s parents” – pg. 12. Holden tells us that this disingenuous behavior “makes me so depressed I go crazy.” Through such descriptions, the reader gets the sense of what Holden indicates when he describes folks as ‘phony’, and how their ‘phoniness’ impacts him due to the fact it is frequently these with social power (like a headmaster) that demonstrate this superficiality and this entails a feeling of anger for Holden who is topic the actions of ‘phonies’ socially superior to him.

Maybe the distinction amongst the two novels in terms of this theme of corruption is that Frankie feels the corruption within, although Holden feels the corruption from with out. So while Holden is explicit in pinpointing the supply of the corruption in his brother, former headmaster and other individuals, McCullers alludes to a psychological corruption within Frankie. For instance, on web page 32 we discover that in Frankie there is “tightness… that would not break” and that “what she did was always incorrect.” The narrative goes no additional in describing precisely what this ‘tightness’ is or what is ‘wrong,’ instead of allowing the ambiguous language to reveal only Frankie’s discontent and confusion. Even so, like Holden, we can conclude that corruption is the outcome of an oppressive expertise of the external – that is, adult – globe.

Chronologically, these novels each effectively convey themes of oppression, and reflect their protagonists’ attributes in radically distinct approaches, regardless of the fact that they each and every take location more than just a couple of days. Salinger’s episodic narrative pulls the reader swiftly by way of Holden’s passage of time. By way of dialogue, the reader is somehow brought into a sense of real-time, which, juxtaposed with Holden’s tangential stream of consciousness, constructs a chronology whose erratic nature gives the reader a sense of more than-stimulation inside a quick period, similarly to how Holden himself can be said to be overly stimulated by his time in New York’s adult world. One particular instance – in the middle of the story – demonstrating Holden’s spontaneous liaison with a prostitute, where he attempts to extricate himself from the situation which begins to make him “feel sad as hell”: he lies about a back operation on his “clavichord… in the spinal canal” (a clavichord is really a stringed musical instrument). This meeting evokes, once again, Holden’s perceptivity to corruption in the external globe, and his sadness suggests just how sensitive he is towards it. Following the whore’s elongated departure Holden talks aloud to Allie (his deceased brother), starts to reminisce about his childhood, and then transgressively begins to speak about the Bible and the character he liked best “next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones”. His digressions could be stated to take away the reader’s sense of time due to their inconstancy, but we are quickly brought back down to earth with Salinger’s reapplication of dialogue. In this instance, Holden is deviating from Christianity into a disagreement with a boy from college when “somebody knocked on the door… old Sunny [whore] and Maurice [pimp]”. Here an altercation escalates into an argument resulting in Holden becoming “smacked.” Such fluctuation of narrative roller-coasters the reader by means of time, potently representing Holden’s adolescent bewilderment to a world that he finds restrictive, sinister, and thus oppressive. The effect of Salinger’s juxtaposition in between the Bible and the prostitute is probably a mirroring of Holden’s character (he is a lesser version of the self-harming lunatic) followed by an illustration of why it is correct: by lonesomely wandering, failing to consume, drinking and choosing up hookers Holden is harming himself, and maybe he knows so, possibly he alludes to the biblical lunatic as an intense of himself, angered by society and severely lacking self-esteem Holden proceeds to downward spiral with an inevitability that could be observed as necessary for the realisation and content material that we witness at the novel’s finish.

McCullers, conversely, convolutes time. Her descriptions of the lugubrious heat and the minutiae of the globe expressed symbolically for the duration of the endless hours spent around the kitchen table with John Henry and Berenice somehow lengthen our perception of time and appears to slow to Frankie’s pulse-rate: “the sad old kitchen produced Frankie sick… she could really feel her squeezed heart beating against the table edge”. Such time-lag alludes a lot more to the aforementioned atmospheric oppression which in itself can be mentioned to represent a differing oppressed feeling inside Frankie.

In Member, Berenice can be observed as a important character in reflecting Frankie’s feelings of oppression. In spite of their continual bickering, Berenice might feel similarly dispirited to Frankie in how she can be said to represent the repressive globe of a black lady in 1940’s Southern states. Her repetitive cycle of abusive relationships can also be seen to be suggested – in addition to Frankie’s psychological troubles – in such metaphors as the monotonous buzz of the radio, and tuning of the piano in Element II: “… the chords chimed upwards gradually like a flight of castle stairs: but just at the finish, when the eighth chord ought to have sounded and the scale produced total, there was a stop. The seventh chord… struck and insisted once again and again…”. Frankie’s want to “belong” and for escape to Alaska, and Winter Hill (for the wedding) are set against brooding heat, and time is seemingly stretched. Perception of time is convoluted by way of metaphors like the clock for example, exactly where “the town was silent except for the clock. F. Jasmine could really feel the globe go round, and nothing at all moved”. This type of imagery creates a slowness but also suggests an unstoppable advance of time, and the transience of life in terms of John Henry’s fate (he dies at the novel’s finish). Surprisingly, when significant events such as the wedding itself take place, it is described in minor, but poignant, detail: “The wedding was like a dream outside her power or like a show unmanaged by her in which she was supposed to have no part”.

The closing of Catcher sees Holden as grown: although his younger sister Phoebe rides the carousel, he assumes an adult disposition by sitting on the bench exactly where the parents sit. He concludes that he must not “say something or do anything” in spite of that his sister might “fall off the goddam horse” since “The factor with kids, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall, they fall off, but it is negative if you say anything to them” this is essential – it suggests Holden acknowledges the pitfalls of life that the young have to go by means of in order to grow up with a very good understanding of the world. He seems to appreciate the suffering that is inevitable with expanding up, but realises its essentiality. By the finish of this chapter Holden feels “so damn happy” he is “near bawling” at sight of Phoebe who looked “so damn nice”. It could be Phoebe’s innocence, untainted by adult oppression that establishes his sudden revelational happiness.

John Henry dies towards the finish of the novel, and it is described with the identical brevity as the wedding itself, each of which evoke a sense of childishness in that anticipated events occur and – for young children – are typically anticlimactic, but they tremendously affect them subconsciously, and thus shape their development. Berenice’s final words to him are “Run along… for I do not have the patience to fool with you”. This could be study as becoming directed to Frankie who perhaps sees John Henry as portion of her former self, “the old Frankie”. In addition to her new name, Frances, this seems to indicate a maturing in her. After John-Henry’s death “day right after day the sky was a clear green-blue, but filled with light”, which evokes a sense of resolution by means of colours suggesting an ultimately peaceful and unclouded Frankie. The reality the McCullers describes the story’s resolution with a generality over a lengthy period of time causes Frankie’s “happiness” to look definite, especially in contrast to Holden’s, whose happiness, as presented right here, may possibly only be fleeting.

It appears plausible that a person of the exact same age, race and sex of Holden could “fall in adore with the novel [due to the fact] they see in Holden […] an incarnation of their youth” (Schriber, 1990). I am of this demographic, so could be observed to have a bias towards this novel, as it does reflect several adolescent emotions and opinions. But, in addition to this, the immediacy – and intimacy – with which we can relate to Holden, and his sensitivity to particular properties of the adult planet make The Catcher in the Rye extremely full in its presentation of an adolescent’s perspective.

McCullers’ novel is a lot more politically explicit, as shown in her representation of racism in Berenice and of homosexuality in John Henry who each, along with Frankie, the dream of a different world. This political chord adds yet another layer of oppression to the novel. Nonetheless, McCullers’ deep-rooted metaphors, affecting pathetic fallacy and authenticity of the narrator conjure a slow-burning power, provoking wide-ranging queries. The emotion expressed through the ambiguity of her multi-layered prose is moving, offering a journey of discovery more than a seemingly extended period of time. However the fact the novel runs over about as numerous days as Catcher possibly confirms the story’s undeniably poignant delicacy in conveying emotional turbulence. Nevertheless, each authors construct their narratives in profoundly distinct techniques, so considerably so that it would be absurd to write which is “better”.
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