American Adolescence: J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye" and Bret Easton Ellis' "Less Than Zero"

GRIN Verlag
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Bachelor Thesis from the year 2008 in the subject English Language and Literature Studies - Literature, grade: 1, University of Paderborn, language: English, abstract: American Literature thematizing youth, adolescence and initiation draws on a long tradition reaching back to the 18th century, including writers like Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Henry James and William Faulkner. After the Second World War, the American novel of adolescence flourished again in a period that also gave birth to the genre's arguably most prominent representative: When J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye first entered the American book market in 1951, its critical reception could not have diverged more. Salinger's first novel, after publishing a number of short stories in the New Yorker, was mostly attacked for its extensive use of colloquial language. Initial reviews ranged from “an unusual brilliant first novel” to “wholly repellent in its mingled vulgarity [...] and sly perversion”. In 1985, thirty-four years later, Less Than Zero, the first novel of Bennington College student Bret Easton Ellis, was published and also received widely mixed criticism. While Interview Magazine called his debut “startling and hypnotic”, Paul Gray wrote in an article for Time Magazine that the novel “offers little more than its title promises”, referring to its lack of depth and fully developed characters. The first part of this work will lay the theoretical foundations and discuss the genre of the novel of adolescence in respect to the two novels under investigation. After covering the theoretical basics, the second part of this paper intends to concentrate on detecting parallels in the themes and presentations of adolescence and initiation in both works. Since social criticism is always a central genre-specific characteristic of the novel of adolescence, the next part will briefly discuss this issue in respect to The Catcher in the Rye as well as Less Than Zero and point to a possible interpretation of a diachronic development of American society that the two novels delineate. Subsequently, the focus will be shifted to the final chapters of both novels and center upon questions concerning epiphanies, progress and outlook for the respective protagonist. Eventually, this paper intends to give a far reaching picture of the presentation of adolescence in two novels from very different backgrounds, that, in all their diversity, are so astoundingly similar.
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Publisher
GRIN Verlag
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Published on
Oct 14, 2009
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Pages
41
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ISBN
9783640445196
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / General
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Eustace Mandeville Wetenhall Tillyard
This illuminating account of ideas of world order prevalent in the Elizabethan Age and later is an indispensable companion for readers of the great writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries--Shakespeare and the Elizabethan dramatists, Donne and Milton, among many others. The basic medieval idea of an ordered Chain of Being is studied by Tillyard in the process of its various transformations by the dynamic spirit of the Renaissance. Among his topics are: Angels; the Stars and Fortune; the Analogy between Macrocosm and Microcosm; the Four Elements; the Four Humors; Sympathies; Correspondences; and the Cosmic Dance--ideas and symbols that inspirited the imaginations not only of the Elizabethans, but also of the Renaissance as such.

This idea of cosmic order was one of the genuine ruling ideas of the Elizabethan Age, and perhaps the most characteristic. Such ideas, like our everyday manners, are the least disputed and the least paraded in the creative literature of the time. The province of this book is some of the notions about the world and man that were quite frequently taken for granted by the ordinary educated Elizabethan; the commonplaces too familiar for the poets to make detailed use of, except in explicitly educational passages, but essential as basic assumptions and invaluable at moments of high passion.

The objective of The Elizabethan World Picture is to extract and explain the most ordinary beliefs about the constitution of the world as pictured in the Elizabethan Age and through this exposition to help the ordinary reader to understand and to enjoy the great writers of the age. In attempting this, Tillyard has brought together a number of pieces of elementary lore. This classic text is a convenient factual aid to extant interpretations of some of Spenser, Donne, or Milton.

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