The Catcher in the Rye

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 experience how the adult world can have an impact on the lives of young people. In particular, 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 allow it to be viewed as a more powerful portrayal of a child’s perspective, and The Member of the Wedding’s perhaps more convoluted chronology could be said not to lend it such power. Yet McCullers’ poetic language and underlying metaphors conceivably lets it be seen as just as powerful in a distinctly different way. This view of an oppressive world is shared by both novels despite differences in narrative technique: for example, Holden is male, while Frankie is female; McCullers employs a third-person narrative voice, while Salinger uses the first person.

From the outset, both 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 first words are: “If you...

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