Cultural Perception On:

Women, Pop Culture, and the American Psyche


The Catcher in the Rye broke new ground in literature because it broke so many conventions and challenged the conservative values of the late 1940's-1950s mainstream. It featured a young protagonist thinking and speaking like a typical teenager--which was pretty shocking to those who had never read such language in print. The book continues to have an impact today, and will continue to have an impact as long as there are young people who feel deprive by society. People strongly relate to Holden Caufield because he recognizes a lot of negative things about society and desires to protect the helpless and innocent from them. His voice is the same voice as anyone who's ever been frustrated by his/her rather helpless role in the world, and he speaks strongly to those like him--on the cusp of adulthood and scared to death of entering the real nasty world.

Textual Evidence:

“I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.” (Chapter 10)

“One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies." (Chapter 2)

“I mean most girls are so dumb and all. After you neck them for a while, you can really watch them losing their brains. You take a girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn’t any brains.” (Chapter 13)


1. How was the role of women in society in transition during post-war period?

All of the single women and of those who were widowed or divorced who intended to remain in gainful employment after the war stated they would do so in order to support themselves or themselves and others. 57 percent of the married wartime workers who expected to remain at work gave this reason. The remaining married prospective postwar workers interviewed offered reasons of the special purpose type, such as buying a home, about as often as those of the “like-to-work” type.

2. Describe the ideal woman according to Hollywood?

Housewifery became professionalized with a plethora of books and articles extolling the virtues of domesticity and urging women to leave their "Rosie-the-Riveter" jobs for the less tangible rewards of child-rearing and housekeeping.

3. What contrasting media images of femininity did the public receive during the post-war era?

All the females look absolutely perfect. Not a blemish in sight. They are seemingly classy as can be, when they might actually be you-know-what, and dressed in ridiculously stylish looking clothes.

4. How might these images have affect on Holden's perception of romantic interests?

He would look for a perfect female as shown on the magazines. He will have the wrong idea on what he should be looking for in a female.

5. List the following popular or "best of" items from 1951 with 2-3 examples of each

1.) Poodle Skirts!

2.) Sock Hops- Just a bunch of dandy people dancing at a get together

3.) The Twist - A common dance performed at sock hops

4.) The Conical Bra- a fashion item worn my women

5.) Drive in Theaters

6. What kind of music were most people listening to?

Music in 1950 was in transition from jazz to other forms. A lot of popular music was performed by vocalists such as Peggy Lee, Frankie Laine, Teresa Brewer, Bing Cosby, Nat king cole, and more. There were also many jazz groups as well as larger orchestras primarily playing be-bob jazz.

7. Who and what were they seeing at the movies?

1950All About EveJoseph Mankiewicz

1950Sunset BoulevardBilly Wilder

1951An American in ParisVincent Minnelli

1952Singin' in the RainStanley Donen

1952The African QueenJohn Huston

1952High NoonFred Zinnemann

1953From Here to EternityFred Zinnemann

1953ShaneGeorge Stevens

1954The Caine MutinyEdward Dmytryk

8. How was psychiatry viewed within the mainstream America in the early 1950s

? Is this different from today?

Considering people in the 1950s were more close minded, the idea of any sort of mental instability was looked down upon. Whereas no, in 2014, Americans (Hopefully) are more patient with any one with a disability. Back then many people were exiled if they had a disorder but now there are organizations dedicated to people in need of mental help.


1.) What is an example of mainstream fads in the 1950s?

2.) What is a stereotype, that you can infer, was given to females and their duties?

3.) Why do you think there was an idea of the "perfect" female?

4.) Is there still an idea of a perfect female?

5.) What are some differences between the popular dance, "The Twist", and a popular dance of today?

6.) Do you wish we could have kept some of the older fads in the 1950s such as drive in theaters, sockhops, etc.?