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Essay about Corruption in Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

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If you were to witness something corrupt, what would you do? Would you try to stop it? Or would you just look the other way and pretend it was not there? In today’s society, corruption is almost everywhere, and too often, people just look the other way, allowing it to continue. In writing The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger attempts to show people the evils of a corrupt society, and how it can harm anyone. He does this through Holden’s experiences at Pencey and in NYC, as well as the uncertainty and confusion that Holden feels about sex.

While he is at Pencey, Holden experiences corruption many times. This may be one of the reasons that he does not try in his classes. At some point, he joins a secret fraternity, not because he wants to, but because he is “too yellow not to” (167). Ackley tries to join as well, but again and again, “they [do not] let him…just because he’s boring and pimply” (167). This disgusts Holden, because the other students mistreat Ackley because of the way he looks and acts, something that Holden sees as corruption. Another time Holden observes corruption is when old Ossenburger, a rich businessman who once attended Pencey, and who donated money to the school, visits for the first football game. After the game, Ossenburger gives a speech in which he basically describes himself as a saint, telling the students that “he [talks] to Jesus all the time” (17). However, he drives a “big goddam Cadillac” (16), and when he arrived, all the students had to “stand up in the grandstand and give him a [cheer]” (16). This is corrupt, because if he was really a saint like he implies, he would be more modest instead of bragging about how good he is and showing off his wealth. Holden sees corruption in at least one of ...


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...is telling them sex stories shows how corrupt he is. He corrupts the young boys by telling them that promiscuity is okay, and twists their minds. And he does this while he is supposed to be helping the boys make good choices.

All of these things that Holden experiences are used by Salinger to show that in real life, while corruption may seem to be rare, it is actually commonplace and can hurt people. That is why if one experiences corruption in their life, such as underage drinking, people acting differently around someone than they normally act, or someone corrupting children, then they must attempt to stop the corrupt actions before they hurt someone. If society as a whole realizes the evils of corruption, and endeavors to prevent it, the world will become a better place.

Works Cited
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 2001. Print.


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