Chapter 5 Conclusion

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Representation and narrative techniques are approaches to understanding the relationship between a real author’s views and vicissitudes of real life embodied in his works and the protagonist’s perspective. The Catcher in the Rye is written from Holden Caulfield’s perspective which is saturated with some of the mystique that challenge the researcher to investigate the representation of J.D. Salinger’s views on changes in American society in the 1940s which is relevant to the American real society outside the story.

According to Paul Levine and Harry Papasotiriou’s explanation of the American political situation in 1947, which impacts on some literary works of the postwar period, ignited by the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), HUAC claimed it was interested in the presence of communists in Hollywood and the penetration of communist propaganda in movies. Further, they explain that meanwhile writers were appalled at the hearings and investigations of the McCarthy era and some had been called to testify in front of HUAC and named names of their former associates, former communists who committed subversive activities, the theme of ‘naming names’ was taken up a few years later in two of the most powerful dramatic works of the postwar period, Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible (1953), and Elia Kazan’s film, On the Waterfront (1954).

Moreover, Paul Levine and Harry Papasotiriou specify that “ Clearly, both Miller and Kazan were responding to the new political climate in their work. In On the Waterfront, Kazan defended the principle of informing under extreme conditions by drawing a parallel between communism and criminality. In The Crucible, Miller attacked the principle of naming names by drawing a parallel between the Salem witchcraft trials of the 1690s and the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1950s.” 1

At its core, On the Waterfront is the story of the moral redemption of a young tough, Terry Malloy and The Crucible tells the story of the moral redemption of a respectable Puritan farmer, John Proctor. The emphasis on moral regeneration in the two stories “ suggests that both Kazan and Miller were more concerned with the intimate world of personal relations than with the public world of political actions. Though both

On the Waterfront and The Crucible have been interpreted as essentially political statements on opposite sides of the issue of naming names, they actually have more in common with each other and with other works of the postwar period which depict an alienated hero in a corrupt society who chooses values involving personal integrity over those involving political solidarity. As we shall see, Terry Malloy and John Proctor are not out of place in a decade that produced such alienated heroes as J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield, Ralph Ellison’s ‘invisible man’ and James Dean’s ‘rebel without a cause’.” 2

Paul Levine and Harry Papasotiriou’s explanation of the American political situation in 1947 and other social and cultural phenomena referred to in Chapter 2 of this research correlate significantly with the representation and narrative techniques. For representation, Stuart Hall concludes that “ At the heart of the meaning process in culture, then, are two related ‘systems of representation’. The first enables us to give meaning to the world by constructing a set of correspondences or a chain of equivalences between things – people, objects, events, abstract ideas, etc. – and our system of concepts, our conceptual maps. The second depends on constructing a set of correspondences between our conceptual map and a set of signs, arranged or organized into various languages which stand for or represent those concepts. The relation between ‘things’, concepts and signs lies at the heart of the production of meaning in language. The process which links these three elements together is what we call ‘representation’.” 3 Therefore, to analyze the context of narrative through a system of representation, it is inevitable that we must examine the elements of narrative to recognize what representation is.

As stated before, the main purpose of this research has been to analyze both the protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye in terms of conceptual or ideological factors and narrative techniques which influence the construction of the representation and the relationship between the representation and J.D. Salinger’s views on changes in American society in the 1940s. Consequently, this chapter aims to put the protagonist’s views, narrative techniques, and the representation into perspective by answering research questions proposed in Chapter 1. Subsequent to the analysis of this novel, further study is suggested. The following conclusions can be drawn.

According to Stuart Hall, the production of meaning through language is representation. Therefore, as question (I) asks how the production of meaning through language in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is constructed, it is found that representation in this novel is constructed of narrative techniques which are the disillusionment plot and the central themes, as well as characterization and setting. And all these narrative techniques are relevant to the protagonist’s pessimistic view of life which focuses often on phoniness, alienation and meltdown.

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