The Post-War Era and The Catcher in the Rye English 10 Redding
Historical Context: WWII • The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951. • August, 1945: first atomic bombs used in warfare dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki • Reasons for the bombings controversial
The Post-War Era • After end of WWII (1945), growing confidence in U.S. military and economic might • End of war rationing meant access to consumer items • Opportunities for employment for many (although women employed in wartime factories often exited the workforce) • Burgeoning consumer culture of “luxury for the masses”
The Cold War • 1951: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg are convicted of selling U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. They are executed in 1953, despite protests of some who believe they were targets of Red Scare “witch-hunt” • 1950-1954: The Joseph McCarthy Era—investigations into alleged Communists in the government; ended in McCarthy’s being discredited by the U.S. Army
Culture of the Post War/Cold War Era • Symbols and signs of optimism, wealth, and vulgarity: *the car (In the ’50s, 20% of GNP of U.S. went to purchasing vehicles) * gaudy colors & chrome * the supermarket (with an astounding selection of goods) *home appliances (the “mod cons” – modern conveniences) * the suburbs Levittown: considered first planned, mass- produced community in the suburbs; built 1947-1951 on Long Island
About Salinger • Born 1919 in New York City to parents Sol and Miriam; father was Jewish, mother, Catholic • Attended public and private schools in Manhattan; then Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania (may be basis for Pencey Prep) • Attended New York University and Ursinus College, but did not graduate from either
About Salinger • Distinguished himself as writer in second semester of night class at Colombia with Whit Burnett, editor of Story magazine • First publication appeared in 1940 in Story: “The Young Folks” • Many stories submitted to, and rejected by, The New Yorker
About Salinger • Served in WWII: participated in D-Day Landings in 1944; was one of first soldiers to enter a liberated concentration camp • Was treated for shell shock, aka combat stress reaction, after the war • Met and began correspondence with Earnest Hemingway while overseas; E.H. called Salinger “a helluva talent”
About Salinger • Critically acclaimed “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” published in The New Yorker in 1948 • The Catcher in the Rye, featuring Holden Caulfield, was published on in July 1951 • Salinger on Catcher: "My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book.… [I]t was a great relief telling people about it.”
About Salinger • Novel was immediate popular success but also faced criticism for profanity, irreverance, and other “inappropriate” content • Attention after publication of Catcher led Salinger to move to a small town in New Hampshire • Most recent well-known publications are from the 1960’s: best-known is Franny and Zooey (1961), from a series of stories about the Glass family (no relation). • Salinger has lived as relative recluse ever since, very rarely giving interviews, with no publications since 1965
About Salinger’s techniques and themes • Techniques/aspects of style: *internal monologue *stream of consciousness *sparse but revealing dialogue *young characters as focus * colloquialisms intermingled with elevated diction • Themes in Catcher and other works: * youthful innocence and the loss thereof * alienation and isolation of the individual * failure to live up to parental and society’s expectations Be on the lookout for these elements!
What is Modernism? • Every literary period is modern in its own eyes. The ancient Greeks of 5th century BC Athens thought they were modern. The Romantics in their day thought they were modern. The writers of Realism saw themselves as modern in rejecting the Romantics. We just don’t have a good term right now for the literary era in which we live. By default, we call most literary works written after World War I "modern." It is difficult to look at our own times and see what literary era we are living in and come up with a good name for it. "Modern" is the best that we can do for now.
Highlights of the Modern Era • two devastating almost-global wars: World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1941-1945) • huge changes in industry and technology as compared to the 19th century • the rise in power and influence of international corporations
More highlights… • Interconnectedness across the globe: cultural exchanges, transportation, communication, mass (or popular) culture from the West (with "West" being considered Europe and North America)
Modernism • uses images ("word pictures") and symbols as typical and frequent literary techniques • uses colloquial language rather than formal language
More Modernism… • often, the intention of writers in the Modern period is to change the way readers see the world and to change our understanding of what language is and does