J. D Salinger explores many ideas of identity in his book ‘The Catcher in the Rye’; these ideas include ego, expression, personality, environment and perception. The author uses many features such as first person narration to express these ideas of identity. Identity is a common theme in many works including ‘The Truman Show’ directed by Peter Weir and poem ‘Life-Cycle’ written by Bruce Dawe. ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is an emotional journey of 16 year old Holden Caulfield who is struggling to recognise his identity. Holden’s journey begins at Pencey Prep, one of three schools he attended and was expelled from.
Holden then narrates as through the events following his expulsion from Pencey Prep and his eagerness to avoid his parent’s disappointment. Holden spends the couple of days before his parents are informed of the expulsion in New York meeting with old friends and acquaintances. On his third night alone he goes to visit his younger sister Phoebe who he describes as being highly intelligent for her age. She calls him up on his behaviour, although it isn’t until he later visits Mr Antolini that he begins to see reason and returns home.
The book is told as a series of flashbacks by Holden as he sits in a Californian Hospital due to his poor mental health. Ego, described as “self-esteem or self image” (dictionary. reference. com) is a common theme in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’. Holden very frequently refers to himself as some sort of introvert, after his fight with Stradlater at Pencey “I’m not too tough. I’m a pacifist, if you want to know the truth. ” Although, this seems unlikely given the nature of the fight, however, much later in the novel Holden is being beaten by Maurice and does not do a thing to defend himself proving himself to be a pacifist.
Holden often says that he appears much older than he really is, especially due to some grey hair, this also seems unlikely as evident when in the Lavender Room he is rejected by some women because they see him as being too young, during another venture to bar he is denied alcohol because of his age. When Stradlater mentions that he is dating Jane Gallagher, a girl he had some sort of relationship with years earlier Holden is consumed with curiosity and even jealousy. Many times throughout the novel Holden finds himself hinking about her and wanting to all her, but does not claiming he does not want his parents to find out about his expulsion through her mother. This is a similar circumstance to ‘The Truman Show’. Truman spends his life thinking about a girl he had not seen for years and often considers seeking her out although his fears prevent him from doing so. Holden’s perception of others is very judgemental. The word “phoney” is used many times throughout the book mostly describing people he has met and Hollywood especially movies.
Again, this (phoney) is a trait that Holden also takes on himself. He often lies to appease other people, like when he met Ernie’s mother on the train. He tells her what a “swell guy” Ernie is, when Holden admits that he actually does not like Ernie at all. When Holden is describing his sister Phoebe, he shows a very biased opinion of her, referring to her as beautiful and very intelligent; however in his description of her this does not seem likely. Perception is thoroughly explored in ‘The Truman Show’. Truman Burbank was a baby chosen to be filmed as part of a TV show every day.
The director of this show, Christof, described the show “while the world he inhabits is in some respects counterfeit, there’s nothing fake about Truman himself”. Truman perceives his world to be very genuine, however there are clues given to us, the audience, that this is not quite true. For example, When Truman is driving to work, something that we, the audience, instantly recognised as a stage light fell from the sky, Truman, however accepted the radio’s explanation that it was part of an aeroplane in trouble, shredding parts.
There are also various product placements throughout the show, that Truman himself even seems to find it unusual as when Meryl, his wife his describing a product, while looking directly into the camera Truman replies with “who are you talking to? ” and when Truman attempts to find his way to Fiji he is never able to make it because there is always something in the way, this being so frequent does not strike Truman. Christof explains this saying “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented. Many of the cameras used in the movie are presented as they would if it was a legitimate TV show. Many scenes have blurred borders as if the camera is set in something, as the hidden cameras in the show would have been. An obvious example of these camera’s is the one seen when Truman is getting into his car, his neighbour is holding a bin with a small camera coming out of the side this contributes to the audience perception that this is a realistic television program. Holden Caulfield’s identity has been moulded by his environment, how he was raised the people he has met and the family he comes from.
Holden comes from a family with four children and two wealthy parents who had built an image of conformity causing them to be distant towards their children. This lack of praise may be the cause of Holden’s rebellion and laziness at school. At the boarding schools Holden attended he was given little to no freedom, much like he was when he was living with his parents. This caused him to act sneakily and manipulative in order to act as he wanted to be. For example: “Stradlater hated when I smoked in the dorm.
It was against school rules, but no one could smell it. ” Holden has very little respect for rules and, although he seems to easily be able to adapt, somewhat to his environment, he very much struggles to be a non-conformist and establish his own identity away from that of his family, school or even sport teams. Bruce Dawe’s poem ‘Life-Cycle’ explores football as a metaphor for life. The poem describes how newborns are already pushed into the world of football “…wrapped in club colours, laid in beribboned cots, having already began a lifetimes barracking”.
The families and/or people this poem describes worship the teams they support and are constantly surrounded by them. In the poem, religion, what all society is based on, is football and this shapes the identity of the people as a whole. Holden in many aspects is very gentle personality. He seems very protective of children and respects women by far more than any friends he mentions throughout the book, Stradlater in particular. When Stradlater was dating Jane Holden got violent because he was worried about her safety, Holden appears to feel the need to save anyone he sees as not being capable to save themselves.
He invites Ackley to the movies, even though he admits to not particularly enjoying his company and donates money to the nun’s he has breakfast with. He always seems to take pity on people that he sees as being less fortunate. Holden’s friends consider him to be immature. Society has seemed to have robbed him of everything, with one brother dead and the other lost to Hollywood, his belongings are borrowed often and sometimes never returned. Truman Burbank seems the opposite of Holden Caulfield’s teen angst and depressive behavior. Truman smiles more often and is quite humorous and carefree.
However, as the story progresses Truman’s feeling of trapped increases and he becomes obsessive with freedom. The whole book is Holden narrating how he has been feeling prior to going to hospital. During this story he scarcely tries to express his feelings of depression with anyone, mostly because he is not close enough to anyone to be able to, instead he continues through his rebellious phase trying to run from his issues, rather than face them. Holden does try to confide in his little sister Phoebe, but discovers she is not mature enough to understand what he is going through.
Holden then goes to see his old English teacher Mr. Antolini, who he finally divulges some of his feelings to. Truman expresses himself through humour, something that is something of a trait of Jim Carrey’s (the actor who plays Truman). Truman appears to have more extreme emotions than most people who have been exposed to a less sheltered world. When Truman meets a girl in High school who seems to connect with him, after her departure he is unable to let her go. He collects beauty magazines and pieces them together to recreate her face.
Truman also speaks to his best friend about issues he is having at home. Truman’s identity is a lot more public than he realizes. To conclude, Identity is a concept which includes the ideas of ego, perception, expression personality and environment. JD. Salinger expresses the ideas of identity through the people Holden communicates with throughout the novel and in certain behaviours. Peter Weir’s movie ‘The Truman Show’ and Bruce Dawe’s poem ‘Life-cycle’ also express these ideas of identity though the use of camera angles and metaphors.