ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Ralph Waldo Emerson's Ideology and the novel "Catcher in the Rye"

Updated on June 7, 2020

Ralph Waldo Emerson believed in individualism, he believed that a man can achieve great things if he solely relies on himself and shuns the societal expectations which weigh him down. In his famous essay called “Self-Reliance,” he argues that a human is unique in his self and he should not bound himself with the illogical regulations of the society rather he should be a non-conformist and adhere to his own beliefs and should not dismiss his own ideology in order to conform to the ideas shared by the majority. The main idea that “Self Reliance” by Ralph Waldo Emerson and the novel “Cather in the Rye” by J.D Salinger shares is non-conformity and reveling in one’s own individuality and uniqueness. Salinger in his novel “The Catcher in the Rye” illustrates Holden as a character who thinks that conforming to norms is an evil act and one should refrain from it. The character Holden shares the ideology of non-conformity with Ralph Waldo Emerson, a conformist is someone who dismisses his own ideas and takes up the ideas that are shared by the majority of the people. Emerson believes that society corrupts the independent spirit of an individual, hence conformity should be shunned. Emerson states “whoso would be a man must be a non-conformist", which means that for a human to complete his transition into a man it is necessary to rely on himself and to not dismiss his own ideas. Holden views conformists with contempt and enjoys his uniqueness. Holden lives according to the ideology of Emerson, he refuses to conform to society, lives like an outcast due to his beliefs and persists on expressing his individuality. Holden is a person who matures from an immature boy to a self-reliant man, he aims to wage a war against the superficiality of the society and therefore gets expelled from 3-4 elite schools due to not following rules, he mostly teaches himself and misses classes at school because he believes in exploring his own ideas. Holden is generally disliked by his teachers and friends, his sister Phoebe even claims that he does not like anything so everyone is displeased with him, this is very similar to what Emerson said: “For nonconformity, the world whips you with its displeasure.” This aspect of Emerson’s ideology can also be seen reflected in the novel as due to not conforming to rules and ideals of the society Holden is disliked by nearly everyone. Emerson argues that being a non-conformist is not easy as the society ostracizes the people who make their own way and cling to their own ideas, this novel ‘The Catcher in the Rye” is the clear depiction of the ideology presented by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Another aspect that is similar between the character of Holden and the ideology of Emerson is the profound belief in the goodness of nature. Emerson in his essay “Nature” lays the foundation of his theory transcendentalism, transcendentalism explores the relationship between nature and humans, it states that nature is divine and only with the true understanding of nature can a person understand himself and the reality. Holden Caulfield is the most outstanding example of transcendentalist character in literature. Holden admires nature and only in the company of nature he can think clearly for instance when Holden is talking to sally he mentions how would he love to leave the city life behind and move somewhere deep in the forest where there are no people. His obsession with ducks and where they go also accentuates his concern and love for nature. Thus, it can be affirmed that the protagonist of the play lives according to the principles presented by Emerson in many ways.

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Issam masmodi profile image

      Issam El Masmodi 

      11 months ago

      Salinger's sole novel is of course one of the greatest works in literary canon. The unreliability of Holden and his innovative way of thinking diffrentiates him from the other characters in American literature. The idea of linking the philosophy of transcendentalism to Holden is to the point since Holden refutes conformism particularly the rite of passage from childhood to adulthood.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)