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

In books The Catcher in the Rye and The Member of the Wedding Event, Salinger and McCullers both invite the reader to experience how the adult world can have an influence on the lives of young people. In particular, the novels explain 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 might permit it to be considered as a more powerful representation of a kid’s perspective, and The Member of the Wedding event’s possibly more convoluted chronology could be stated not to lend it such power. Yet McCullers’ poetic language and underlying metaphors possibly lets it be seen as just as powerful in a noticeably different way. This view of an overbearing world is shared by both books in spite of distinctions in narrative method: for instance, Holden is male, while Frankie is female; McCullers uses a third-person narrative voice, while Salinger uses the first person.

From the outset, both books make it clear that the primary protagonist feels in some method oppressed by the environment or atmosphere that surrounds them. In Catcher this is shown through Holden’s profane, even defiant, voice. The first words are: “If you really want to find out about it.” This ‘you’, with which he addresses1 the reader, engenders sympathy, and maybe more intriguingly prompts questions of dependability as the reader understands this is Holden’s subjective interpretation of events. The obvious hesitation of the story teller to tell his story is reinforced by a declared lack of desire to describe his “poor youth”, where he “was born” or how his “parents were occupied … and all that David Copperfield type of crap”– all of which shows a dislike for autobiographical conventions. We are currently on the planet of somebody who feels at chances with his environment and who is in opposition to the conventions of the adult world surrounding him.

The Member of the Wedding embraces a different technique. It commences rather traditionally with “It occurred that green and insane summer season when Frankie was twelve years of ages.” This sentence has a simplicity similar to children’s stories, which raises specific expectations in the reader about the type of drama that may follow. Nevertheless, instead of the innocence of youth, there is obscurity in the adjectives “green” and “insane”; atmospheric words that recommend innocence naivety (green) and confusion (crazy). Given that Frankie is “twelve years of ages”, the reader may conclude that they are existing with a ‘maturing’ story. Furthermore, the “it” (the first word) is naturally evasive to us upon our very first reading. Even by the end of the novel, we are still unclear what ‘It’ describes: it could imply the heavily awaited wedding event of Frankie’s brother, or potentially Frankie’s sexual advancement (at the end of Part II Frankie (F. Jasmine at this point) still can not accept the idea of sex, and consequently labels it “insane” following her evaluation of her sexual encounters).

McCullers’ obvious story-telling conventionality (in contrast to Catcher) is maybe additional weakened by underlying metaphors. McCullers uses poetic language composed of lots of possible significances. For example, there is atmospheric representation of the external world to show Frankie’s internal world: “In June the trees were brilliant dizzy green, but later on the leaves darkened, and the town turned black and shrunken under the glare of the sun.”. The descriptions of the weather alone conjure an overbearing environment: the ‘darkened’ leaves and the ‘black and shrunken’ town are both metaphorical of Frankie’s misery. Moreover, “green” might be taken as symbolic of the freshness of Frankie’s youth, and “brilliant lightheaded” could be reflective of her uncertainty at a vulnerable phase of advancement. McCullers, therefore, does not appear to perform her opening with the immediacy of Catcher, instead quietly rendering her prose with subtle meanings. There is a substantial difficulty in deciding which is a more effective introduction– Salinger’s intimate and opinionated direct-address, or McCullers’ nicety of prose; the direct-address of Holden grabs the reader’s attention by expressing points that appear sensitive to his society’s oppressive nature without appearing to be constrained by such injustice, which can be taken a look at contextually: embeded in 1949 (post-war America), Holden critiques the balance that the federal government was having a hard time the maintain chiefly due to the threat of communism. McCarthyism constrained the actions of numerous, particularly those in the arts, and females were restrained similarly from a profession outside their home, given that the allegedly disrupted idea of a family required to be put right continuing the war. It was thought a working father and stay-at-home mother was the proper method forward in order to present the suitable that work was ‘unwomanly’. Holden appears to want to rebel against the aforementioned American ideologies. One female associate, Sally, interprets Holden’s want to “leave” as a want to “travel” telling Holden they will have “loads of time to do all those things … I indicate after you go to college and all, and if we get wed and all”. This could be viewed as a passive acceptance of the social conventions of the time, and– in the sense that Sally does not question the unimaginative and perhaps dull future she has been conditioned to presume is right– Holden’s ideas are comparatively much less inclined to the status quo; it appears that he sees such a comfy future as conforming to a life doing not have in surprises.

Continuing reading, we come across in both books a theme of corruption that threatens to strike the lives on the protagonists. The neutrality and lack of bias with which McCullers’ third-person narrative unfolds enables direct unmediated observation of behaviour that is left to the reader to analyze, maybe psychoanalytically. In Member, pg. 33 (Part I), there is a “queer sin” that Frankie is said to have actually committed with a Barney MacKean whom she hates so much that she “prepared to eliminate him … shoot him with the pistol or throw a knife between his eyes”, yet this does not necessarily suggest Frankie frowns at Barney. Instead this might be read as a resentment or defensiveness masking worry and guilt for what she has done; she feels corrupted. Signs of her sense of corruption are continued throughout Part I: “she might not call the feeling in her”. The reader can notice Frankie’s stress– she is being oppressed by feelings too complicated for her age. Furthermore, as an outcome of the story’s credibility, that is we trust the third-person story since it appears impartial, the reader can notice Frankie’s high level of perceptivity in relation to Holden, who might be stated to be too had by his own misery and anger in order to view the world precisely.

In Catcher, Holden sees corruption all around him. Of his brother he states “D.B., being a woman of the street … out in Hollywood”. The implication is that D.B.– as an author– has actually not been true to his art having actually been seduced by product wealth. Obviously, D.B. has not always sold-out by going to Hollywood– Holden might rather be masking his true feels; it is most likely that he is missing his sibling, particularly 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 fulfilled in my life … [who] if a kid’s mom was sort of fat … would just shake hands with them and give them a bogus smile and then he ‘d go talk, for maybe half an hour, with somebody else’s parents”– pg. 12. Holden informs us that this disingenuous behaviour “makes me so depressed I go bananas”. Through such descriptions, the reader gets the sense of what Holden implies when he explains people as ‘counterfeit’, and how their ‘phoniness’ affects him due to the fact that it is frequently those with social power (like a headmaster) that demonstrate this superficiality; and this requires a sensation of anger for Holden who is subject the actions of ‘phonies’ socially exceptional to him.

Perhaps the difference in between the 2 books in regards to this style of corruption is that Frankie feels the corruption within, while Holden feels the corruption from without. So while Holden is specific in determining the source of the corruption in his brother, former headmaster and others, McCullers mentions a psychological corruption within Frankie. For instance, on page 32 we learn that in Frankie there is “tightness … that would not break” and that “what she did was constantly wrong”. The story goes no further in describing precisely what this ‘tightness’ is or what is ‘incorrect’, instead enabling the ambiguous language to expose only Frankie’s discontent and confusion. Nevertheless, like Holden, we can conclude that the corruption is the result of an oppressive experience of the external– that is, adult– world.

Chronologically, these novels both effectively convey themes of oppression, and show their protagonists’ characteristics in radically distinct ways, despite the fact that they each take place over just a couple of days. Salinger’s episodic narrative pulls the reader quickly through Holden’s passage of time. Through discussion, the reader is somehow brought into a sense of real-time, which, juxtaposed with Holden’s digressive stream of consciousness, constructs a chronology whose irregular nature offers the reader a sense of over-stimulation within a brief duration, likewise to how Holden himself can be said to be excessively stimulated by his time in New york city’s adult world. One instance– in the middle of the story– demonstrating Holden’s spontaneous intermediary with a prostitute2 where he tries to extricate himself from the circumstance which begins to make him “feel sad as hell”: he lies about a back operation on his “clavichord … in the spine canal” (a clavichord is really a stringed musical instrument). This conference evokes, once again, Holden’s perceptivity to corruption in the external world, and his sadness suggests simply how delicate he is towards it. Following the whore’s extended departure Holden talks aloud to Allie (his departed brother), begins to reminisce about his youth, and then transgressively starts to talk about the Bible and the character he liked best “beside Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that resided in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones”. His digressions might be said to remove the reader’s sense of time due to their inconstancy, yet we are instantly revived down to earth with Salinger’s reapplication of discussion. In this circumstances, Holden is deviating from Christianity into an argument with a young boy from school when “someone knocked on the door … old Sunny [whore] and Maurice [pimp]. Here a run-in intensifies into an argument resulting Holden being “smacked”. Such change of narrative roller-coasters the reader through time, potently representing Holden’s adolescent bewilderment to a world that he finds restrictive, sinister, and hence oppressive. The effect of Salinger’s juxtaposition in between the Bible and the woman of the street is possibly a matching of Holden’s character (he is a lesser variation of the self-harming lunatic) followed by an illustration of why it is true: by lonesomely wandering, stopping working to eat, drinking and picking up hookers Holden is hurting himself, and perhaps he understands so; maybe he mentions the scriptural as an extreme of himself, angered by society and significantly doing not have self-confidence Holden proceeds to downward spiral with an inevitability that could be seen as needed for the realisation and material that we witness at the book’s end.

McCullers, conversely, convolutes time. Her descriptions of the lugubrious heat and the minutiae of the world expressed symbolically during the unlimited hours spent around the cooking area table with John Henry and Berenice in some way lengthen our perception of time and appears to slow to Frankie’s pulse-rate: “the sad old cooking area made Frankie sick … she could feel her squeezed heart beating against the table edge”. Such time-lag points more to the previously mentioned climatic injustice which in itself can be stated to represent a differing oppressed sensation within Frankie.

In Member, Berenice can be seen as an essential character in reflecting Frankie’s feelings of injustice. In spite of their continual bickering, Berenice may feel similarly dispirited to Frankie in how she can be said to represent the repressive world of a black woman in 1940’s Southern states. Her repetitive cycle of abusive relationships can likewise be seen to be suggested– in addition to Frankie’s mental troubles– in such metaphors as the tedious buzz of the radio3, and tuning of the piano in Part II: “… the chords chimed upwards slowly like a flight of castle stairs: however just at the end, when the 8th chord ought to have sounded and the scale made complete, there was a stop. The seventh chord … struck and insisted again and again …”. Frankie’s dream to “belong” and for escape to Alaska4 and Winter Season Hill (for the wedding event) are set against brooding heat, and time is seemingly stretched. Perception of time is convoluted through metaphors like the clock for example, where “the town was quiet except for the clock. F. Jasmine could feel the world go round, and nothing moved”. This type of images creates a slowness however likewise recommends an unstoppable advance of time, and the transience of life in terms of John Henry’s fate (he passes away at the book’s end). Surprisingly when significant events such as the wedding event itself occur, it is described in small, however poignant, detail: “The wedding event was like a dream outside her power or like a program unmanaged by her in which she was expected to have no part”.

The closing of Catcher sees Holden as grown: while his younger sister Phoebe rides the carrousel he assumes an adult disposition by resting on the bench where the moms and dads sit. He concludes that he should not “say anything or do anything” regardless of that his sis may “fall off the goddam horse” since “The thing with kids, if they wish to get for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not state anything. If they fall, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them”; this is key– it recommends Holden acknowledges the risks of life that the young should go through in order to grow up with a good understanding of the world. He appears to appreciate the suffering that is inevitable with maturing, but realises its significance. By the end of this chapter Holden feels “so damn happy” he is “near bawling” at sight of Phoebe who looked “so damn good”. It could be Phoebe’s innocence, untainted by adult injustice that develops his abrupt revelational happiness.

John Henry passes away towards completion of the unique, and it is described with the very same brevity as the wedding itself, both of which stimulate a sense of childishness because anticipated occasions happen and– for kids– are typically anticlimactic, however they significantly affect them subconsciously, and thus form their advancement. Berenice’s last words to him are “Run along … for I do not have the perseverance to trick with you”. This could be read as being directed to Frankie who maybe sees John Henry as part of her previous self, “the old Frankie”. In addition to her brand-new name, Frances, this appears to show a developing in her. After John-Henry’s death “day after day the sky was a clear green-blue, however filled with light”, which evokes a sense of resolution through colours recommending an ultimately tranquil and unclouded Frankie. The truth the McCullers describes the story’s resolution with a generality over an extended period of time causes Frankie’s “happiness” to seem guaranteed, especially in contrast to Holden’s, whose joy, as presented here, might just be short lived.

It appears plausible that someone of the very same age, race and sex of Holden could “fall for the novel [since] they see in Holden […] an incarnation of their youth” (Schriber, 1990). I am of this market, so could be seen to have a predisposition towards this unique, as it does reflect lots of adolescent emotions and viewpoints. Yet, besides this, the immediacy– and intimacy– with which we can associate with Holden, and his level of sensitivity to certain residential or commercial properties of the adult world make The Catcher in the Rye incredibly complete in its discussion of an adolescent’s point of view.

McCullers’ unique is more politically explicit, as shown in her representation of racism in Berenice and of homosexuality in John Henry who both, together with Frankie, dream of a various world5. This political chord includes another layer of oppression to the novel. However, McCullers’ deep-rooted metaphors, affecting pathetic misconception and authenticity of narrator conjure a slow-burning power, provoking wide-ranging concerns. The feeling expressed through the uncertainty of her multi-layered prose is moving, providing a journey of discovery over an apparently long period of time. Yet the fact the novel runs over about as lots of days as Catcher maybe validates the story’s undeniably poignant special in conveying psychological turbulence. Nevertheless, both authors construct their stories in profoundly distinct ways; so much so that it would be unreasonable to write which is ‘better’.

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