Masculinity : Masculinity And Sexuality Essay

Masculinity : Masculinity And Sexuality Essay

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The Catcher in the Rye: Questioning Masculinity and Sexuality in Society

During the post war society of the 1950’s in America, uniformity and conformity were a must. Although men and women were all required to do things during WWII, after the war men and women were put into traditional roles that were reaffirmed. Not accepting these roles would make one an outcast. Society has always had certain expectations for each gender. These expectations that are set for men and women pressure them to do things that they may not be ready for.
For most of history men and women have always played roles in society. With set expectations for men it has always been hard for those that stray from the path of manhood. With a very heterosexual society the 1950’s was not a place to diverge from the norm. The expectations for what it means to be a man it is clear that masculinity is and has been very fragile.
In J.D. Salinger’s coming of age novel The Catcher in the Rye, he expresses the challenges a young person faces when entering, or refusing to enter, adulthood. Salinger uses the character of Holden Caulfield to challenge society’s expectations of men through his characters constant questioning of society’s norms. Holden wanders from the expectations set by society for men to be masculine by having feminine qualities. Expectations for what it means to be a man, pressure Holden to do things he is not ready for. Not only do expectations from society pressure Holden, but also his expectations that he has for himself affect what he does in the novel.
J.D Salinger questions the behavior of young men by making Holden refuse the usual things that society would say he should.It is very apparent that Holden cannot relate to the men around him. The char...


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...he wanted to have sex with Sunny, the call girl, I agree with Dejovine’s claim that society has made sex seem like a “rite of passage”, especially for teenage boys. If society had not made sex a prerequisite to adulthood, Holden wouldn’t have agreed to have a girl sent to his room. The claim that Holden makes about getting in “some practice on her” further proves that to men sex is believed to be a step into adulthood.
Holden Caulfield represents the young adult in society that stands out. Fitting into society with it various expectations and regulations is difficult. What is Salinger does in The Catcher in the Rye is challenge those expectations. By writing a character that is the literary embodiment of what it means to be a young adult who is unsure of who they are, Salinger questions these expectations and provides a character that people will forever relate to.

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