Week #1 (Researcher): Teens and Post-War Life

Catcher in the Rye is set in the 1940’s, 1946 to be exact, just after the end of World War II, a time which was characterized with an economic boom due to wartime industry. It was also around this time that “teenagers” became a demographic of their own, though in the beginning the term was used mostly to describe white, middle-class girls. Holden, while very much a teenager, wouldn’t necessarily fit into this group, which in 1944 Time magazine described as “[living] in a world all their own- a lovely, gay, enthusiastic, funny and blissful society”. Holden is jaded and rather depressed, angry at the world and the people in it. This, too, was common, with teens left adrift, directionless after the war ends. Many have good jobs, but often found new ways to rebel to find their place in life. At this point in the book, though, Holden has little to no friends, no apparent affection towards his family, or ties to any one particular place or hobby. He is more directionless than anyone, tending to do things for no specific reason, and to not care outwardly about anything, which makes him seem like more of an outcast.

The Invention of Teenagers: LIFE and the Triumph of Youth Culture

Youth Culture in the 1940’s

—  Vivienne K.


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