Salinger's Oasis Of Masculinity Essay

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A Man With All His F-a-c-u-l-t-i-e-s Intact J.D. Salinger is an author with a complicated past of misogyny, pedophilia, and abusing his female spouses. Former lover of Salinger’s, though she prefers not to be remembered that way, and author, Joyce Maynard, has said, “The vision that emerges of Salinger’s relationships with women… is a bleak one, suggesting a man who spent his life fixated on a fantasy of youthful innocence while refusing to contend with the realities of day-to-day domestic love” (Dean). This point is supported very well not only by actions throughout his life, but in the way he wrote, from submissive female roles to encouraged hyper-masculinity. While likely not the first major theme die-hard Salinger fans would find in his…show more content…
Recognizing Salinger’s record with attraction to young or innocent girls and women, this could be seen as problematic. In Anne Marple’s essay, “Salinger’s Oasis of Innocence,” she describes how many of Salinger’s female characters appear to almost be asexual. When women in his works are sexual beings, this is often seen as a negative, almost “witchy.” Marple quotes William Wiegand who said, “Where object of delight is found in women, these women are often little girls or nuns, and what is admired is sexless in essence” (Marple). Salinger even addresses the issues of sex when he has one of the protagonists of “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” a dissatisfied, newly wed woman, Muriel, reading an article titled, “Sex is Fun--or Hell” in the opening scene. In Gary Lane’s essay, “Seymour 's Suicide Again: A New Reading of J. D. Salinger 's 'A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” he states that, '“Muriel is basically simple--and basically corrupt” (Lane). Her role in comparison to her complex husband, Seymour Glass is one…show more content…
While the generalization, submissiveness, and sexuality of women are crucial to understanding Salinger’s portrayal of gender in his literature, it is important to analyze an equally relevant topic in his writing, idealized masculinity and male sexuality. Out of Salinger’s works, the only one that stands out as being a story told from and about masculinity is The Catcher in the Rye. The novel is a bildungsroman, a coming of age story, but from a unique perspective. In his article, “None of that David Copperfield crap,” Clive Baldwin says that protagonist, Holden Caulfield’s search for authenticity is in many ways, a search for authentic masculine identity. Baldwin describes that while he seeks out a driven, sophisticated, traditionally “heterosexual” form of masculinity, this is something that he cannot easily attain. Holden is a character who falls more comfortably in a feminine form of masculinity, which Baldwin supports by Holden’s tendency to prefer tangents rather than a directly conveying a point, shown by his attitude in his Oral Expressions class. Holden’s strive for this idealized manhood is also shown when he attempts to have sex with a prostitute, though not being emotionally prepared for what he is about to put himself through. Holden’s idea of masculinity is very James Bond, an unrealistic embodiment of strength, resilience, and adoration from females. At the end of The Catcher in the Rye, there is no clear resolution of his struggles with self-imposed
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