Rejection is the key to self-destruction. Rejection of an individual could possibly cause the mental deterioration (nervous breakdown) of that individual due to the repudiation of society. Ostracization is not always induced by the physical appearance of a person but is sometimes caused by a character flaw. In both J. D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye and E. L. Doctorows Ragtime the main characters, Holden and Evelyn, feel rejected by society and in isolation turn inward and reject themselves. The death of Holden Caulfields younger brother Allie initiates Holdens nervous breakdown.
Holden enters an unrecoverable spin of depression spiraling downward to the point of near suicide. What I really felt like though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out of the window (a-108) Holden lacks a friend or another compassionate influence to provide him with moral support. Just as one part of Holden drives him forward in his painful quest for a relationship, another deeper part urges his withdrawal. (c-556) Without a caring husband, Evelyn Nesbit must turn to society for not only mental love, but also physical love.
There sits among us the most brilliant woman in America, forced by society to find her genius in the exercise of sexual attraction. (b-46) Evelyn attempts to buy her way into society. Your beauty is no more than the beauty of gold, which is false, cold, and useless. (b-49) Holden attempts to justify his isolationism by considering the entire sane population of the world phony. If you sat around there long enough and heard all the phonies applauding you got to hate everybody in the world(a-97) Holden is a perfectionist and can not accept blemishes in individuals personality.
He could be considered a hypocrite because of his view of society as imperfect. It is ironic that Holden ventures to find perfection when he himself is far from perfect. (g-intro) After being unable to receive love from the world, Evelyn delves for mere acceptance. It occurred to Evelyn one day that Harry might indeed love her. She was stunned(b-72) Evelyn wished for simple contact and communication even if it was ridiculing. She wanted someone who would treat her badly and whom she could treat badly. (b-74)
Holden thinks that each different school he went to might offer some new compassionate relationship. He had been expelled from two other schools, and his latest school, Pencey, was no different. In the beginning of the book he is watching the last football game of the year from beside the Revolutionary War cannon on Thomsen Hill – he is not at the field – freezing cold because somebody had stolen his camel’s hair coat and fur-lined gloves, Holden is really hanging around trying to feel some kind of a good-bye.
Caulfield misses the friends he made at Pencey but reassures himself that they were simply morons and he should not feel sad about leaving them. “I stood for a while next to the stairs and took a last look down the goddam corridor. I was sort of crying. I didn’t know why. I put my red hunting cap on and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, ‘Sleep tight, ya morons! ’(a-35) Holden realizes that he has a problem with being unable to accept anyone as sane and intelligent so he travels to the house of his old English teacher and asks him for help.
The teacher Mr. Antolini quotes the phrase The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mature man wants to live humbly for one. (c-123) None of this is any use to Holden, who simply wants to know what makes him find so many people false and dishonorable. In the fragile state Holden is in he needs reassurance and love. However, the love the English teacher shows Holden is misinterpreted because Holden wakes up in the night in horror to find the man stroking his head.
Caulfield, believing the act was homosexual and that his teacher is a queer phony, dashes into his clothes and escapes. Holdens running from Antolinis apartment takes him some distance on the way in his fall from innocence. (c-557) When unable to gain acceptance from upper-class individuals like herself, Evelyn turns to the lower class to look for some form of respect. She knelt down and looked the little girl in the face and said hey pumpkin. Thus began Evelyns concern for the thirty-two-year-old geriatric artist and his daughter.
Evelyn even attempts to join the anarchist movement with the Jewish artist to fit in and be like the rest of the lower class. Anarchists, and union leaders prophesized correctly that Evelyn would be a greater threat to the workingmans interest than the mine owners. (b-71) Ever since the death of his brother Allie Holden loathes change and he dislikes talking about the past because then he has to remember how things were and that a change has taken place over time. Dont ever tell anybody anything. If you do you start missing everybody.
Holden attempts to hold the back the pain of memories but can not deny the love within him when he begins to miss all the bastards he has told about (c-555) How Society views Evelyn has a great impact upon how she views herself. Tateh turned from Nesbit and said my life is desecrated by whores. (b-47) With individuals referring to her as a whore Evelyn views her self-image as that of a street prostitute. Her long beautiful neck seemed to her like an ungainly stalk upon which was perched a sad head of a whore past her prime (b-74)
Just as Evelyn attempts to begin a relationship with lower society to aid her loneliness, Holden to adjust in desperation of his isolation seeks out Ackley, a pimple faced loner at school, for companionship(c-556) Perhaps their mutual isolation draws the two boys together, although, of course their isolation occurs from quite different causes. However once again Ackley is considered a phony and a sort of nasty guy who picks his pimples even when he knows your watching (a-17) Holden cannot understand why things in life must change and such as friends leaving him.
Holden interrogates two taxi cab drivers about the location of the ducks during winter in Central Park. The ducks are symbolic of Holdens past friends. As Holden questions the second driver, Horwitz, the taxi cab driver responds by relating the ducks to the fish in the lake. The taxi cab driver irritably responds to Holden’s barrage of questions by replying, “If you was a fish, Mother Nature’d take care of you, wouldn’t she” (a-109) The answer is satisfactory to Holden because he knows that wherever the ducks may be, they are taken care of.
Holden’s motive for wanting to know where the ducks fly in winter is that he cares for them because they relate to him. Similarly, Holden is searching for help; he believes that by helping others, such as the ducks, he will find good in the world that will warm his heart and cure him of his depression. Holden first admits his loneliness to an old friend in a bar, Holden attempts to strengthen the relationship but his friend is tired and uninterested in a long conversation, Have just one more drink, Please Im lonesome as hell, no kidding. He said he couldnt. (a-149)
Individuals roles are determined by society, for without society an individual is nothing, an ostracized victim. Due to isolation the individual looks inward upon himself or herself and attempts to find faults in their character and eventually wind up loathing themselves. Society rejected three students who lived in Columbine because of their differences. The students took revenge upon members of their school society by shooting their classmates. The rejects, after their act, turned inward and detested themselves for their own faults and committed suicide. Each individual in the world is a possible victim of society.