Discuss how the values and attitudes of non-conformity are explored in both The Catcher in the Rye and Igby goes Down-(refer to context, purpose and techniques. )
1. Good morning fellow non-conformists and, today I will be talking to you about how the novel The Catcher in The Rye, written by J. D Salinger and the film Igby goes Down, directed by Burr Steers explore the issues of non-conformity, through two separate approaches. Igby goes Down provides us with a modern day interpretation of Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye, and by doing so; we are able to better understand the values and attitudes of non-conformity.
2. Both the novel and the film follow the lives of their main protagonists, Holden Caulfield and Igby Slocumb respectively as they attempt to find the meaning of life, and where they fit in, whilst rebelling against society. Holden’s struggles while growing up are demonstrated through his constant stream of consciousness, his ideals and symbolism throughout the text. On the other hand, Igby’s non-conformist attitude is represented through his clothing, values and beliefs. Both vary as results of contextual influence.
3. A main issue associated in both contexts is the failure of achieving the American dream. Holden rejects the American dream as he knows it is not possible for him to achieve it without becoming a “phoney” through all the corruption. By doing so, he is able to be free from the world with the ideas that he despises. This links greatly to his method of self-protection which is isolation.
4. Holden acknowledges that he is in school to study so that he can “learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a god damn Cadillac someday. ” Salinger sees the American Dream as something Caulfield cannot achieve, or does not achieve because he doesn’t want to become a phoney during the process.
The contextual influence upon the American Dream is that this idea was post WWII and that those who achieved the American Dream prospered and would lead happy lives.
5. Jason, Igby’s father cracks under great pressure after accomplishing the American Dream. While in the shower, he has an emotional break down and confesses to Igby: “This great pressure is coming down on me, crushing me. ” This quote shows us that the American dream did not allow Jason to be free, and after witnessing this confronting sight, Igby decides to escape the American way of life, and his rebellion against society results.
6. The context of the film influences the views towards the American dream. Steer acknowledges that the American dream will provide the gaining of reputation and materialistic satisfaction, but none of the characters mentioned in the film and novel reach the ultimate goal of satisfaction, and thus, the upper class find themselves trapped within the idea of the American Dream, and possibly end up like Jason.
7. Holden is a teenager who refuses to grow up because he is afraid of gaining the responsibilities and burdens that come with adulthood. By doing so, Holden tries extremely hard to stay a child. For example, throughout the book, Caulfield does not want to take responsibility to communicate with others who may want to help him. 8. Therefore, Holden will always try to offer some random stranger to go have a drink with him, as they won’t criticize him. “Would you care to stop on the way and join me for a cocktail? ” he asks a cab driver on the way to the Edmond Hotel. The contextual influence portrayed is of how society will make an individual compromise themselves, In other words, make a sacrifice to become corrupt, and in Holden’s case, he rejects to do so.
9. Steers and Salinger use various symbols in their respective mediums to express the different ideas of non-conformity. When Igby smokes pot in front of the American flag, he defies the main symbol of the American Dream, which is to work hard for your country and you will be rewarded. Steers’ use of the American flag as an icon with Igby’s actions, is to present this view of non-conformity. Steer achieves this greatly through the use of a rising mid camera shot.
10. The camera focused upon where Igby sits, which is in front of the American flag. The camera rises with the flow of the smoke showing more of the flag. This camera shot highlights Steers’ perception of the American Dream and this symbolises Igby’s perception towards the American flag, and for the value which it represents. Igby is defiantly a non-conformist, and is very proud to not conform.
11. Colour symbolism is used throughout Igby goes Down. There are two main scenes where this is present. A major scene is when Igby and his brother, Ollie kill their mother Mimi. We see the red lipstick covered lips behind the plastic bag, when they are suffocating her, suggesting death while murdering her. This is soon juxtaposed by another scene where colour imagery is involved.
12. In a flash-back, where Igby and his family are eating dinner together, we see a washed-out camera shot, with all the surroundings very dull and plain, except for the table’s centre-piece, which is a vase full of flowers. This shows the artificial life placed within the lives of the Slocomb family as members like Mimi are found to be constantly disrupting it.
13. The red hunting hat is one of the most recognizable symbols from Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. It is inseparable from our image of Holden, with good reason: it is a symbol of his uniqueness and individuality. It shows that Holden desires to be different from everyone around him and at the same time, he is very self-conscious about the hat. The presence of the hat mirrors the central conflict in the book: Holden’s need for isolation versus his need for companionship.
14. Alienation is also another issue explored by Salinger and Steers. Holden believes that by isolating himself from society, he is protecting himself from the corruptions associated with it. “Don’t ever tell anyone anything. If you do, you start missing everybody”. This quote signifies greatly towards Holden’s willingness to resist from forming relationships with others as he will dwell on the memories after these people have disappeared from his life.
15. The context of the Catcher in the Rye is influenced by Steers’ perception towards the society of America in his time period. In the novel we can see that Steers’ does not hide the fact the American society is corrupt and he uses Holden as his “puppet” to express his ideas toward this era. Holden isolates himself to protect himself from this corrupt society. This is why we see him as somewhat of a loner. 16. Igby, on the other hand needs to meet people. Igby isolates himself in many situations throughout the film; an example of this is when he finds himself not belonging at the Hamptons cocktail party. He does make the effort and tries to make new relationships with other people but mindlessly tumbles through them, ranging from selling drugs for Russel, the drag queen and sleeping with his godfather’s mistress, Rachel.
17. Igby too finds it difficult to mature as he doesn’t want to educate himself to become like his father who ultimately ends up in a mental health institution. One of the ways Igby avoids his education is by asking the schools father “If heaven is such a wonderful place, then how is getting crucified such a big fucking sacrifice? ” By saying so, this makes it difficult for him to mature as he cannot accept the society’s morals and beliefs, and chooses to believe in his own values and attitudes.
18. The contextual influence varies from that of the Catcher in the Rye, we see that in the novel, Holden tries to isolate himself great from society and also in Igby goes Down, and Igby drastically alienates himself from his family. Isolation can be defined as removing yourself from a group or an activity to which one should be belong or in which one should be involved. Even though the movie and the novel are fifty years apart, there is no contextual influence on the concept of alienation. We see that in Holden and Igby’s case, that “Regardless of context, youth will always choose not to conform. ”
19. Salinger and Steers have used completely different techniques and methods to explore the concept of non-conformity. This may be due to the fact that one uses the medium of a movie, whilst the other a novel, or because Salinger held on too tightly to the rights and didn’t want anyone to copy his great novel.
20. The difference in context causes them to use different themes and issues, which ultimately sets apart the differences between the two mediums. Using a range of film and literary techniques such as camera shots, metaphors and symbolism, Salinger and Steers both explore the values and attitudes of the respective mid-20th century and early 21st century societies. Thank you.