By Grace Elizabeth Hale
At mid-century, american citizens more and more fell in love with characters like Holden Caulfield in Catcher within the Rye and Marlon Brando's Johnny in The Wild One, musicians like Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan, and activists just like the contributors of the coed Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. those feelings enabled a few middle-class whites to chop freed from their very own histories and determine with those that, whereas missing financial, political, or social privilege, appeared to own as an alternative very important cultural assets and a intensity of feeling no longer present in "grey flannel" the US.
In this wide-ranging and vividly written cultural historical past, Grace Elizabeth Hale sheds gentle on why such a lot of white middle-class american citizens selected to re-imagine themselves as outsiders within the moment half the 20 th century and explains how this extraordinary shift replaced American tradition and society. Love for outsiders introduced the politics of either the hot Left and the hot correct. From the mid-sixties in the course of the eighties, it flourished within the hippie counterculture, the back-to-the-land circulate, the Jesus humans flow, and between fundamentalist and Pentecostal Christians operating to place their conventional isolation and separatism as strengths. It replaced the very which means of "authenticity" and "community."
Ultimately, the romance of the outsider supplied an inventive answer to an intractable mid-century cultural and political conflict-the fight among the need for self-determination and autonomy and the will for a morally significant and actual existence.
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Extra resources for A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love with Rebellion in Postwar America
37 Catcher finds even less to use in the Marxist understanding of alienation as the separation of a person’s work from her sense of self. Writing during the postwar Red Scare, Salinger creates a fictional landscape in which there is no ideological left. Alienation exists, but it is not a political and economic problem. Unlike some of the Beat poets, who were then already living their soon to be infamous vision of cultural rebellion, the fictional Holden does not even gesture in the direction of radical politics.
In this way, Catcher satisfies contradictory feelings, the urge to be self-determining through resisting social rules and conventions, and the urge to be a part of a community. And despite Caulfield’s gender, this reconciliation of contradictory desires through identifying with outsiders and rebels seems to work for some female as well as male readers. A first-person narrative about a person who is neither an adult nor a child, the novel displaces the incompatibility of these desires into the borderlands of adolescence.
One fictional character’s experience of alienation, of course, mattered little historically. Catcher became a powerful model of adolescent alienation across the postwar era because of the intersection of broad historical trends with Salinger’s skill as a writer and changes in the publishing industry. In the 1950s, the paperback revolution transformed book publishing and made novels almost as cheap as magazines. At the same time, the postwar economic boom gave white middle-class teenagers more money to spend and more leisure time in which to enjoy their purchases.