AP Lang and Comp
5 December 2014
Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist, and philosopher, once stated in his words of morality that one should “not be too moral. You may cheat yourself out of much life so. Aim above morality. Be not simply good; be good for something.” This message has been used in many writings across the ages, as a distinct genre, the medieval morality play. The medieval morality play uses a very relatable character to convey its moral, which is commonly known as an everyman. Salinger can make Holden Caulfield be considered a contemporary Everyman, through Holden’s great relatability to the reader. Holden may seem insane, antisocial, and immature, but in fact, Holden has served as an everyman to influence our youth for over 60 years. The medieval everyman that Holden exemplifies takes its roots in a medieval morality play. A medieval morality play is a genre of shows that were very popular in Europe during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They consisted of a protagonist that represented something small or broad enough to symbolize the world as a whole. All the characters in the show have an important purpose of either morally guiding the protagonist to be good or evil, often allegorically representing moral issues in real society. One of the most popular morality plays, The Somonyng of Everyman (Everyman) is a very famous medieval morality play that uses very complex, descriptive allegorical characters to describe the Christian Salvation and what men must do to
attain it. The play features an immense amount of allegorie where Everyman represents all of mankind. Everyman is faced with dilemmas of good and evil when he starts to interact with society and his followers. Everyman is soon faced with the realization that he is alone, despite all his so called friends and necessities. Everyman realizes that all that matters when he is placed before God is that he is only left with his good deeds. Through not only the relatability of everyman, the unknown author also relates to his audience by using examples of the 15th and
16th centuries, where Salinger also makes his relatable to the modern teenager by using an appropriate plot for the time.
In The Somonyng of Everyman, Everyman represents his audience that is all of mankind.
On the other hand, Holden describes the average teenager through his struggles with family life and struggles with subordinating to authority. Holden seems to show a lack of respect for his parents when Phoebe says, " Daddy'll kill you." and Holden responds, "No, he won't. The worst he'll do, he'll give me hell again, and then he'll send me to that goddam military school. That's all he'll do to me (Salinger 89).” Holden clearly shows a lack of respect for his parents by brushing their punishments off carelessly. This is very relatable to modern teenagers nowadays because they tend to believe punishments are useless and unreasonable, but in reality, parents usually know best. Holden also clearly struggles with subordinating to authority because he has been kicked out of three high schools in his high school career, all of which, were due to bad grades and poor behavior. The bad grades and bad behavior is clear evidence for his lack of respect for school authorities and parental authority. Holdens rebellious nature is a definite reason that he should be considered a realistic teenager.
Holdens actions and thoughts bring out the shocking truth about society. Holdens thought on suitcases reveals a troubling truth when he states, “They were these very inexpensivelooking suitcasesthe ones that aren't genuine leather or…