Throughout history and modern day texts and films, archetypes have been used to add significance and meaning to literature by allowing us to understand patterns of human behaviour. Looking at the archetype of the outsider, the reader speculates the outsider’s purpose to challenge the values and the assumed expectations of society; such as the actions of society to initiate change in the archetype? The “novel catcher in the rye” by jd Salinger, and the film “Gran Torino” by Clint eastwood both explore the issues isolate the archetype from society.
By analysing the most captivating aspects of the outsider, we come to realise that we must accept and respect one another’s differences and the individual need to be more indulgent and understanding of society in order to not be segregated from it. In both the “catcher in the rye” and gran Torino “, the outsiders endeavour to offer their own social commentary by criticising the patronising and flamboyant world they see.
Notice for instance Holden Caulfield on top of the hill looking down at the football game, symbolising his seclusion from society, “practically the whole school except for me was there, and the scrawny and faggy on the Saxon hill side. ”Holden’s colloquial speech makes him approachable to the audience and his use of obscene language assists us in recognising his disregard for the value of innocence and purity.
In Gran Torino, however, the emotionally confused “Walt Kowalski” a Vietnam War veteran is quick to reveal his hatred for different ethnic races, predominantly those of Asian descent or as he calls “gooks”. “why the hell did they have to move into this neighbourhood” the word “they” highlights Walt’s segregation from his neighbourhood and the “gooks” that are moving in . For Walt the moving in of all the foreigners makes him feel like an outsider.
The level of insecurity that is portrayed by Walt is the fundamental reason he has become an outsider; whereas Holden’s deliberate segregation from society gives him the outsider status. After studying the catcher in the rye we can determine that Holden’s favourite word is “phony” and throughout the novel he continuously repeats the word to distance himself from society; take for instance when he expresses his dislike of movies ,” I’d be a phony if I let them stick me in a movie short.
The symbolism of this quote is that to him the movies are a part of the patronising and flamboyant world surrounding him, which leads to the assumption that Holden is refusing to accommodate to behaviours of society. Through this exclusion from society however Holden experiences grief and melancholy. Similarly in Gran Torino Walt distances himself from all his neighbours and only speaks to the white people in town. He uses racial and derogative words in means of keeping people away from him and to allow distance from people he dislikes. Nobody acts sincere anymore what happened” the realisation that societal beliefs have changed shocks him. Likewise Holden is afraid to change his views on society as he does not want to become a “phony” and he doesn’t want to become a “lousy adult” Thereafter studying the most intriguing aspects of this archetype, through these texts, we come to a conclusion that archetypes truly do illuminate the human condition . because they show the need for understanding of society to not be segregated from it And although the outsiders role is to confront society values, it shall stay the same and never altered.