The phrase 'Ivy League' is used to refer to a group of colleges known for their academic excellence. The Ivy League usually encompasses eight schools: Brown University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Yale University. They are all located on the east coast, many in New England, and are among some of the oldest institutions in North America. Likewise, the difficulty of being admitted and the stringent requirements have characterized the colleges, as well as the students enrolled there. Historically, this has lead to stereotypes forming, grouping the students there as snooty and elitist. Many believed only upper middle and upper class families would enroll there and the association of wealth contributed to the elitist factor in stereotypes. This last part is most important to Holden Caulfield.
Catcher in the RyeEdit
"The worst part was, the jerk had one of those very phony, Ivy League voices." -Holden Caulfield, The Catcher in the Rye, page 128
Holden Caulfield characterized many groups as so-called "phonies." These included actors or simply narcissistic individuals. He also included people who fell into the Ivy League stereotype. As in the above quote, he goes on to describe the jerk's voice as "snobby." He strongly dislikes people like him, they irritate and anger Caulfield. The way they act and conduct themselves around others does not fit with his outlook. Caulfield view life with a very egalitarian and compassionate mindset. This particular jerk intrudes on Caulfield and his date when they are dancing. The lack of respect added to Caulfield's frustration at the jerk's elitism. Elitism goes against what Caulfield believes, and he sees it as phony, fake, and detrimental to one's character. He imagines 'Ivy Leaguers' as critical folk who always critique books, shows, or even women. Caulfield respects women, and the way many snobby individuals take women for granted irritates Caulfield. This shows how compassionate he is. Holden Caulfield is caring and sensitive.
Childhood friend Carl Luce is a Columbia student, and therefore an 'Ivy Leaguer'. Luce is never classified as a phony, but could easily have fit into that moniker if he so desired. Despite being narcissistic and somewhat snobby, Caulfield knew Luce as a person, and not as an irritable bystander easily slung into a stereotyped category. Luce acts sophisticated a cosmopolitan, explaining he finds "Eastern philosophy more satisfying" (Salinger 146). Also, in the presence of Luce, Caulfield loses his compassionate, thoughtful tones, and his phrases become more childish. Holden Caulfield is fascinated by sex, and Carl Luce proves to be an ample resources on the subject. Although Luce try to feign frustration at Caulfield's persistence to discuss the topic, he seems eager to share. Luce pushes details about his sex life as a way to impress Holden. Luce appears to be well versed in the subject, and therefore, Caulfield can use him as a resource. He is a useful phony. It is never fully explained why Caulfield sees Luce as a friend and not a phony. Much of this probably come from the fact that Carl Luce and Caulfield went to school together. To Holden, Carl is not some distant emotionless jerk, but a real person whom he has grown up with. This is one way that bias works its way into Caulfield's mind. For the most part, Caulfield goes through life with a remarkable open mind, but here it is clouded by bias. Carl Luce does not fit Caulfield's tailored definition of a phony, and is not one to him. Holden Caulfield is not immune to emotional bias, and his judgment is clouded in some situations by it.
"Ivy League." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 3 Jan. 2015. Web. 8 Jan. 2015.
Salinger, Jerome D. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1951. Print.