Explore the protagonist’s relationships with stereotypes within the novels, and how this leads to them both being an outsider in society.

Within the two novels, ‘The Shock of the Fall’ by Nathan Filer and ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D. Salinger, stereotypes can be identified. According to The Cambridge Dictionary (2019) a stereotype is defined as “A set idea that people have about what someone or something is like, especially an idea that is wrong.”. In each of the novels, the protagonists Matthew and Holden both seem to have a relationship with what may be viewed as stereotypes, and this may be seen as the cause of them being portrayed as the outsider in society. In ‘The Shock of the Fall’, Matthew deals with humanity’s stereotypical impressions surrounding mental illness and tries to break away from these. The stigma is made very clear within the novel and due to this, Matthew is seen as the outsider in society. Holden on the other hand, in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ creates stereotypes out of everyone he meets in order to compensate for the fact that he is an individual in society and therefore is an outsider, looking in on everyone else.In ‘The Shock of the Fall’, stereotypes can be seen through how Matthew is treated in a professional setting, which is ironic as it is a place that Matthew should feel at his safest and most secure within himself. This can be seen when it says “She just kind of froze as if the nursing dictionary contains all these se crets that patients aren’t allowed to know.” The verb “froze” is used to convey how the receptionist is almost shocked that Matthew would ask such a question. The sarcastic tone that Matthew uses in this sentence may show that he feels that due to the stereotypes of mental illness, Matthew is almost treated as a child. This patronising attitude continues when the receptionist replies, “Um, um, is it appropriate for patients to borrow the dictionary, Steven?” The use of verbal fillers and a question may convey the idea that the receptionist is struggling to react to such an idea. This may convey the idea that due to how mental illness is perceived and stereotyped within society, Matthew’s intellectual capability is questioned and due to this he is treated as a child unable to comprehend and understand the contents of the dictionary. Hobb’s writing for The Independent (2014) says “Over 60 per cent of people with mental health problems say the stigma and discrimination they face is so bad, that it’s worse than the symptoms of the illness itself.”Matthew’s emotions surrounding how he is treated in this drop-in centre are also shown. “PLEASE STOP READING OVER MY SHOULDER.” The use of capitalisation in this sentence may highlight Matthew’s frustration and anger towards the fact he is never fully left on his own. I feel that the tone in this sentence shows Matthew’s desperation to be taken seriously and that he almost feels claustrophobic in the idea that he cannot be seen to be doing anything on his own. I feel that Matthew’s feelings towards the drop-in centre can be conveyed by this quotation, “Whilst she carried on rearranging my life, sticking it down with pritt stick.” The extended metaphor and imagery used in this sentence shows that Matthew has no control and independence due to the stereotypes and stigma surrounding mental illness. Due to this, Filer may want to challenge the way professionals treat those with mental illness and convey the idea that people with mental health problems should not be patronised in society. The feelings expressed within the novel may have resonated from Filer’s experience as a mental health nurse, according to Nathan Filer (2012). Unlike Matthew, the character Holden in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ may stereotype others due to the fact that he refuses to conform to ‘normal’ society. This can be seen from the very beginning of the novel when he is talking about the football game while standing on a hill, “you could see the whole field from there” “but you could hear them all yelling, deep and terrific on the Pencey side, because practically the whole school except me was there.” I feel that Holden standing on the hill can be seen as symbolism for seeing everything from a different perspective, which may highlight that he does not fit into society’s norms and therefore stereotypes the rest of the world for how he truly sees them. The idea that Holden does not conform to society can be seen when he says “People never notice everything.” This general statement shows a sense of sadness and how he feels alone in society. Holden may generalise views about others to make up for the fact that he will never fit in. The Guardian (2015) agrees with this, “The thing with Holden is, I think he never really accepts the whole society thing, the way that people conform”. Although these characters are completely different from each other, they both display a coping mechanism of stereotyping others at some point in the novel. In ‘The Shock of the Fall’ Matthew can be seen stereotyping others. “But this is what people do – the Steve’s of this world – they all try to make something out of nothing. And they all do it for themselves” This can be seen as ironic as Matthew is the one that is always stereotyped. Filer may do this to reverse society’s views to show how it feels to be constantly judged on the smallest issues. However, this shows that Matthew will always be the outsider. This is because Matthew will never be viewed as being able to function within normal societal parameters. Holden in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ shows a coping strategy of stereotyping others throughout the novel. “Now he’s in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute.” The negative, sarcastic language may be used in this sentence to make himself feel better that his brother is doing well, while he is the outsider in the family and society. He tries to take away from his brother’s success to compensate for his own feelings of insecurity, which shows that stereotyping others may be his means of coping within society.Another way that stereotypes are conveyed in ‘The Shock of the Fall’ is through generalising mental health issues. This can be seen when it says “Is this question useful? 5 very much, 4 somewhat, 3 undecided, 2 not really, 1 not at all.” This shows that even the health service categorises metal illness into a five-point survey and makes it general compared to the complex issue that it actually is. The questions are not personal and specific to an individual with mental illness, showing they are the outsider due to being constantly generalised and stereotyped. This may reflect the author’s life experiences. Filer, who was a mental health nurse, commented on the novel during an interview on BBC Points West (2014), talking about understanding the NHS’s mental health system Filer said “sometimes it doesn’t work”. This comment may reflect how Filer may be critiquing how the NHS deals with mental health patients. Due to the generalisation within the system that has been put in place, it may not suit everybody’s needs and therefore on occasions, especially in Matthew’s case, the help he receives makes him feel more stereotyped and more of an outsider in society. Mental illness can also be seen as being generalised in ‘The Shock of the Fall’ when the mental health institute is seen “Like the worlds wackiest hotel.” This simile shows how inside a mental health institute is stereotypically viewed. The superlative in this sentence creates the suggestion that it is not a peaceful place to be in, something which is needed when dealing with mental health. Matthew views firsthand what a mental health ward is like with an insider perspective, but he is seen as an outsider in society. This idea can also be seen when it says “We walked through the tunnel, separating CrazyCrazyNutsNuts ward from the general ward.” Juxtaposition is used to show the different treatment of mental health patients. They are secluded from society and therefore are outsiders. The tunnel may be imagery for a transition from the dark place that mental illness is, into the light of general clarity. As a mental health nurse, Filer may be critiquing the NHS, the noun “general” shows that mental illness is not seen as a normal issue and therefore there continues to be a stigma around it as the ward is segregated from the rest of society. When writing for ‘The Guardian’ (2014) Filer himself said mental health care in the UK is “an utter, God-awful mess”.Within ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, Holden’s relationship with stereotypes may be used to convey that he never feels that he is to blame for not fitting in, within society. He says “One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the Goddam window.” The hyperbole shows that Holden feels that everyone else around him is the problem rather than just accepting that he is an outsider in society. The varied sentencing lengths in this shows that Holden may be attempting to convince himself that everyone else is the problem. The imagery in the sentence conveys the idea that he struggles to get away from the “phonies” and that’s why he left. However, the idea that Holden stereotypes everyone else as “phonies” may be to make himself feel better about not being able to fit in and this may almost be seen as a justification of not wanting to conform to society’s social norms. This idea can also be seen when Holden goes out into New York. While in the hotel, Holden says “I was probably the only normal bastard in the whole place – and that isn’t saying much.” This sentence shows that although there are many different types of groups around him, which he may stereotype, he still believes that he should be considered “normal”. According to the Oxford Dictionary (2019), the definition of the adjective “normal” is “to conform to a standard.” Due to this, a sense of irony can be seen. As a reader, we know that Holden conforms to no standard that society sets. By saying “and that isn’t saying much” may show that Holden understands that he doesn’t fit into society’s expectations of what “normal” is, but still considers himself more normal than the rest of New Yorks groups. This idea may show that Holden stereotypes others to cover up his own issues and to deflect how society makes him feel.An aspect that both protagonists have in common in each novel, is that their relationship with stereotypes makes them feel mentally low. In ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Holden says “I feel so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead.” The adjective “lonesome” that is used in this short, abrupt sentence shows Holden’s personal feelings underneath his barrier of being stereotypical of others. This may show that Holden’s suicidal and depressing remarks throughout the novel are how he truly feels and in order to cover up these feelings, he criticises other people’s lives so that he is distracted from his own flaws. Alternatively, Holden may be feeling low due to the fact that he has no friends. This may show the negative impact stereotyping others has on Holden’s mental health. This feeling can also be seen in ‘The Shock of the Fall’. Due to the stereotypical impressions that Matthew receives about his mental illness, it impacts on him feeling low. He says “People don’t believe a word I say.” The personal pronoun “I” in this sentence shows a sense of loneliness. It creates the idea that Matthew is facing this stereotype on his own and that even though something he says may make perfect sense, it may be viewed negatively and create doubt in the minds of others and suggest that he is lying. This may show that due to the stereotype of a mental illness, Matthew may always find it hard to create new relationships as he feels as if no one believes him. Due to this, I feel a sense of sadness and loneliness can be felt within the character of Matthew. The Mental Health Foundation (2019) state that “Nearly nine out of ten people with mental health problems say that stigma and discrimination have a negative effect on their lives”. This shocking statistic may show the reason Filer may have felt the need to portray Matthew’s mental decline in order to show how these stereotypical views affect individuals’ emotions. To convey the negative relationship that Matthew has with stereotypes in the novel, explicit language is used. Within ‘The Shock of the Fall’ it can be clearly seen that as the protagonist mentally declines, the use of the explicit language increases. This idea can be clearly seen when it says “I’m fine I’m fine.” “fuck off fuck off fuck off”. These sentences are displayed within the novel in a spread-out structure, showing the distance Matthew may be from feeling “fine.” The repetition within these sentences and the frustrated tone that is used may show that Matthew is trying to almost convince the reader and himself that there is nothing wrong. The use of the explicit language may convey the idea that Matthew wants to distance himself from everyone. This may then show that Matthew becomes the outsider as he pushes people away so that they cannot make assumptions about him and his condition. Sanai writing for the Independent (2014) says “Being a psychiatric nurse, Filer has captured the development and the symptoms and signs of schizophrenia perfectly. There is the gradual decline in personality, withdrawal, and neglect of self-care”.Within both of these novels, the protagonists try and explain how they have no control over the stereotypical viewpoint that they receive or create. In ‘The Shock of the Fall’ Matthew says “I have an illness, a disease with the shape and sound of a snake.” Filer uses personification and imagery in this sentence with sibilance of a snake to show that Matthew and people who suffer with a mental health problem cannot control themselves when their disease takes over them. This shows that mental health is like a snake that silently sneaks up on you when you least expect it and therefore you have no control or warning on when you will change. This may therefore show that stereotypes of mental illness are pointless as no one will ever know how a person is feeling and how everyone reacts differently. However, Holden, from ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ shows that he cannot help stereotyping others when he says “I put my red hunting hat on.” I feel that this motif is used throughout the novel to highlight Holden’s individuality and uniqueness. Holden stands out within society and cannot accept that he is the one that is different, he therefore stereotypes others to make him feel more secure within himself. However, some may believe that colour symbolism is used to refer to the context of the novel. During the 1950’s, communism in America created hysteria and became known as ‘The Red Scare’ (School History 2019). Communists were against the typical norms of society much like Holden is, illustrating a comparison. York Notes (2003) agrees with this point of view they say “Holden Caulfield rebels against some of these social attitudes and values; one small sign of this is, perhaps, Holden’s red hunting hat (red being the colour associated with communism).”In conclusion, as Matthew says, “This is what labels do. They stick.” Within these short sentences, Matthew summarises how the protagonist’s relationships with stereotypes leads to them both being viewed as outsiders in society, from totally different perspectives. Matthew will never be labelled as anything other than a mental illness patient. Whereas Holden refuses to conform to society and will never be able to view people as anything other than what he chooses to label them as. Ultimately this shows that stereotypes have a negative impact on peoples lives, whether it is the person being stereotyped or the person who creates them. These novels were written during two different time periods, ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, 1951, and ‘The Shock of the Fall’, 2013, and I feel that they both illustrate how difficult it is to break away from the concept of stereotypes, as once these have been created, inevitably, “They stick”.

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