The Catcher in the Rye (1951) is set and written in the post-war setting of the 1960’s, which was around the time of the countercultural revolution. Young people around Salinger became either political activists which completely supported the civil rights and antiwar movements or would begin to ‘abandon’ and disclude themselves from the ‘normal’ culture. As this began to grow, Salinger allowed Holden’s character to be developed based around the idea of the disconnection of important human connection in which he symbolized unburdened uniqueness in the face of cultural oppression. This has caused the book to become one of the most influential works of American literature, having Holden as the main character and also the narcissistic, bitter narrator. Holden starts off the first chapter of the book by sarcastically saying, “I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything” – but that statement contrasts the very first sentence of the book by stirring our curiosity and saying, “If you really want to hear about it” – making it seem like he isn’t excited to talk about himself.
This immediately creates the effect of the story being merely about one person and their life; creating a very self-centered atmosphere right from the start. When he starts off at the very opening of the story, he “proves that he qualifies for the performing self as he sets up his story’s terms and conditions” said A. Robert Lee, British professor studying American Literature, who wrote Gothic to Multicultural: Idioms of Imagining in American Literary Fiction.
In a way, Salinger is not covering Holden’s narcissistic indications but instead, subtly hinting at it to the reader. This subtle hinting of Holden’s incompetence and unwillingness at being a narrator causes the reader to view him as rather unreliable. The order of events mentioned are often disarranged and are disregarded due to him speaking from memory and his own perspective. This caused him to tell the story however he felt like and the lack of elaboration in many areas further this sense of unreliability. Furthermore, this account is indeed one that comes from a person indifferent to the story they are telling. On the other hand, the Victorian-Gothic literature novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray 1890, was written in an era known as fin de siecle or the end of a century; specifically the end of the 19th century. “When society changed, this hypocrisy ceased to work, and as a result, self-centeredness was gradually imported into thought and action, and egoism became enormously over-developed,” said Japanese writer Natsume S?seki, in 1908 about fin de siecle and its link to narcissism.
Dorian is aware of his charming good looks and respectable appearance that when he finds out his portrait is the bearer of flaws due to his crimes, he neglects morality expected in the Victorian era. He is able to commit numerous corrupt activities yet still manage to live the ‘best of both worlds’ – with the acceptance of people due to his looks and the ability to fulfil his foul desires, where he “felt keenly the terrible pleasure of a double life”. His self-awareness of his charm boosted his esteem and did what satisfied his needs, despite the indecency to please his exaggerated sense of self-importance. Lord Henry adds on to this idea as he creates no barrier between a criminal and a decent citizen by saying, “Crime belongs exclusively to the lower orders. I don’t blame them in the smallest degree. I should fancy that crime is to them what art is to us, simply a method of procuring extraordinary sensations”.
Hearing this fulfils Dorian’s pleasures and gives him acceptance, especially it coming from a trusted friend – the very meaning of decadence, put directly into a character with complete deterioration of morality and as well as him coming across as conceited. Therefore, both of these novels portray how the society at the time it was written shaped the main characters to the narcissist they are.