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Marxist Criticism

In Relation to "Catcher in the Rye"

Kristen Mayhew

on 20 November 2013

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Transcript of Marxist Criticism

Marxist Criticism in Catcher in the Rye
What is Marxist Criticism?
A type of "social" criticism
Roots for the "little guy", or those who experience difficulties.
Generally against capitalist bosses and authority.
How does Holden's social status affect his perception of the people around him?
Is he one of the "poor and downtrodden" because he is an outcast?
Or is he more like the capitalist boss who is relatively privileged ?
Does being wealthy=being phony?

How does social class affect Holden's perceptions of the people around him?
Questions on Marxist Criticism
Are Marxist critics' views distorted to glorify the lower class?
Does your social status distort the way you look at your peers?
Possessions forming perceptions
Do people judge each other based on what they own?
Holden's Background
Do you think that Holden dislikes his peers and calls them phonies because he is afraid to admit that he is similar to his peers?
How do suitcases define Holden's beliefs?
Nuns at the train station
Who was Dick Slagle?
What was it that made Holden comfortable with Stradlater as a roommate?
Capitalist Bosses
depicted negatively in literature favored by Marxist critics
oppressive, strict, see's himself/herself as higher than the lower class peasant/worker
values seen in Holden's father through Phoebe's references
Examples from the story
Elkton Hills: “He’d be charming as hell and all. Except if some boy had little old funny-looking parents”(14).

Pencey: "Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has - I'm not kidding"(4).
Questions for discussion
If Holden looks down on these rich people, how is he any different from them?
Do you think Holden is just like everyone else, perhaps a phony?
Additional example
Holden says, "It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day"(131).
by Kim Hibben, Kristen Mayhew, Katie Jarrett, Harrison Walters, and Michael Parsley
More questions to discuss
How might Holden's perceptions of other characters in the story be different if he was not wealthy?

Do you think wealth influences peoples' perspective in our society today? How so?
Holden viewed his old headmaster of Elton Hills, Mr. Haas, as a huge and unmistakable phony. Holden had inspected and observed how Mr. Haas only spoke to other wealthy and “normal” parents, and not to the odd, and a little bit peculiar, parents. Holden's perceptions are that those who attend Pencey prep and all prep schools for that matter are all rich phonies.

Marxist Criticism focuses on class struggles in literature and would distort the truth to get a preferred view.
When Holden’s old roommate used cheap looking suitcases, he felt uncomfortable and dissatisfied. As said previously, Holden has an admitted tendency to judge others on their economic status, for instance on a suitcase, merely a personal belonging.
Holden has a desire to help the “poor and downtrodden” yet is hypocritical in a sense of how he spends his money. Holden spent his money without care quite lavishly. This goes against Marxist criticism.
"I'd spend a king's ransom in about two lousy weeks. I really had. I'm a goddam spendthrift at heart. What I don't spend, I lose" (Salinger 107)
"He started walking around the room, very slow and all, the way he always did, picking up your personal stuff and looked at it. Boy could he get on your nerves sometimes" (Salinger 20)
What other actions/experiences does Holden have with people that can be viewed as hypocritical with his Marxist leanings?
Questions for discussion
What economic class should Holden belong to based on his opinions/attitude?
What other characters could be seen as possible capitalist bosses in Holden's life?
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