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An Introduction to The Catcher in the Rye. Advanced Composition & Novel Mrs. Snipes. J.D. Salinger.

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An introduction to the catcher in the rye

An Introduction toThe Catcher in the Rye

Advanced Composition & Novel

Mrs. Snipes


J d salinger
J.D. Salinger

  • Alienation from society is a major theme of Jerome David Salinger’s work and no less a force in his own life. He seems determined to retreat from society and has succeeded in obscuring most of his private life.


  • Born January 1, 1919 to the family of a prosperous Manhattan food dealer, Salinger had one older sister. He was educated in New York City except for the last two years of high school. These final years were spent at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania.

  • Information about his first six years after graduation is vague. Salinger may have visited Europe and is known to have studied sporadically at New York University, Ursinus College, and Columbia University, concentrating on writing courses. During this time, Salinger published several short stories in popular magazines.


Drafted in 1942 and trained in England, Salinger participated in the D-Day invasion. He continued to write during this period and more stories appeared in print. There was also an alleged marriage to a Frenchwoman, which supposedly ended in divorce in 1947.

Salinger moved to rural New Hampshire and lived as a recluse. He only saw local youngsters, whose company he enjoyed. Although the success of his one novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951), brought him unwanted attention, he kept the public eye at bay by refusing all visitors. However, whenever he was trapped, he offered conflicting information and often totally false biographical data.


  • In 1955, Salinger wed an Englishwoman, Claire Douglas. The Salingers lived in Cornish, New Hampshire, in a fenced-off, isolated farmhouse with their two children. Salinger used a nearby concrete bunker as his writing office. Although the marriage ended in divorce in 1967, Salinger remained in Cornish. He continued to refuse all contact with society, communicating with the world only through his published works. He passed away on January 27, 2010.


The philosopher
The Philosopher: Salingers lived in Cornish, New Hampshire, in a fenced-off, isolated farmhouse with their two children. Salinger used a nearby concrete bunker as his writing office. Although the marriage ended in divorce in 1967, Salinger remained in Cornish. He continued to refuse all contact with society, communicating with the world only through his published works. He passed away on January 27, 2010.

  • In Salinger’s work, contemporary society is permeated by hypocrisy, injustice, and a lack of love. In this world of artificiality and indifference, Salinger’s sensitive characters invariably suffer.

  • One of the few saving graces in Salinger’s corrupt world is the purity of childhood. Yet this beautiful, desirable, pristine innocence is short lived. And since childhood innocence is corrupted by passage into adulthood, Salinger offers little hope for a meaningful existence.


  • Yet even the changes of maturation can be dealt with if the character develops an all-encompassing love. In a climactic moment in The Catcher in the Rye, Holden is transformed as he watches Phoebe on a carousel. Through love, he is at last able to accept the inevitability of change and forgive the wrongdoing of others.


  • Some readers object that Salinger’s message is based on negative, reactionary attitudes. For example, Holden’s ideals are defined by his disgust with evil, rather than his reverence for good. Yet, when faced with such overwhelming corruption and such varied reasons for despair, even cautious optimism and the chance for salvation is cheering.


The technician
The Technician: negative, reactionary attitudes. For example, Holden’s ideals are defined by his disgust with evil, rather than his reverence for good. Yet, when faced with such overwhelming corruption and such varied reasons for despair, even cautious optimism and the chance for salvation is cheering.

  • Salinger is a writer, first and last. He adamantly rejects the role of a public figure. He also rejects the position of teacher, refusing to talk about his writing or instruct others on his methods.

  • Although Salinger has retreated from the world, his work offers great immediacy and reality. This is partly due to his stylistic gift for recreating idiomatic expression. In addition, his ability to capture the motivations and desires of the soul show that he has an intuitive grasp of the human character.



  • At present, single character or theme and reshaping it in a number of ways. He continues to approach the character or theme from various angles until the final forms emerge. Holden Caulfield evolved in this manner.Catcher is Salinger’s only novel. He considers himself a short story writer. He has written one collection entitled Nine Stories (1953) and three novelettes—Franny and Zooey, Seymour: An Introduction, and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters—issued as a single work in 1963. He also published approximately twenty other magazine stories.

  • Although his output seems meager, Salinger’s widespread popular and critical acclaim make every effort seem more valuable.

  • The fact that The Catcher in the Rye continues to sell over a quarter of a million copies annually in the U.S. alone testifies to Salinger’s continuing popularity.


The novel offers realism in its use of language, its use of social criticism where it is due, and its presentation of real problems which adolescents face in the process of achieving maturity. The book also offers romanticism in its view of the innocence of childhood, its quest for truth, idealizing the past, and its emphasis on individual discovery and growth.


  • Salinger borrows traditional structures for telling Holden’s story. As in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or Welles’ Time Machine, he utilizes a frame story structure. The outside frame is Holden’s talking to a psychoanalyst: the inside story is Holden’s own narrative, with flashbacks of the events, the “madman stuff” that has led to his arrival at a rest home in California.

  • Since this narrative is in first person, autobiographical and episodic, it is picaresque.

  • It is psychological in that the events narrated are accompanied be Holden’s thoughts. It is also a quest narrative in which Holden seeks to discover truth, values, and, ultimately, himself and his place in the world.


  • “Salinger labored on the novel for 10 years, but the intimacy of Holden’s voice feels effortless. Part of this comes from Salinger’s extraordinary ear for speech. Which you also get in, for instance, his great Glass family stories. But it’s not just technique operating here. It’s an inhabitation of character so complete that it amounts to soul ventriloquism—full blown…I don’t think there’s a single other book in American literature in which the narrator so badly needs the reader to understand him and cure his solitude, and there’s no American book in which the novelist creates the illusion of solidarity between his character and the reader more successfully. In fact, the illusion is so strong that it doesn’t feel like illusion at all: Salinger dreamed Holden Caulfield right into our lives, and 50 years later, he still feels right here, red hat on, striding the American blast, needing us more than ever.” –Cornel Bonca


Picaresque novel
Picaresque Novel: intimacy of Holden’s voice feels effortless. Part of this comes from Salinger’s extraordinary ear for speech. Which you also get in, for instance, his great Glass family stories. But it’s not just technique operating here. It’s an inhabitation of character so complete that it amounts to soul ventriloquism—full blown…I don’t think there’s a single other book in American literature in which the narrator so badly needs the reader to understand him and cure his solitude, and there’s no American book in which the novelist creates the illusion of solidarity between his character and the reader more successfully. In fact, the illusion is so strong that it doesn’t feel like illusion at all: Salinger dreamed Holden Caulfield right into our lives, and 50 years later, he still feels right here, red hat on, striding the American blast, needing us more than ever.” –Cornel Bonca

  • The picaresque is a chronicle, usually autobiographical, presenting the life story of a rascal of low degree engaged in menial tasks and making his living more through his wits than industry. It tends to be episodic and structureless. The picaro, or central figure, through various pranks and predicaments and by his association with people of varying degree, affords the author an opportunity for satire of the social classes. Romantic in the sense of being an adventure story, the picaresque novel nevertheless is strongly marked by realism in petty detail and by uninhibited expression.

  • Cervantes’ Don Quixote is one of the best-known examples of this genre.


Consider: how is Salinger’s intimacy of Holden’s voice feels effortless. Part of this comes from Salinger’s extraordinary ear for speech. Which you also get in, for instance, his great Glass family stories. But it’s not just technique operating here. It’s an inhabitation of character so complete that it amounts to soul ventriloquism—full blown…I don’t think there’s a single other book in American literature in which the narrator so badly needs the reader to understand him and cure his solitude, and there’s no American book in which the novelist creates the illusion of solidarity between his character and the reader more successfully. In fact, the illusion is so strong that it doesn’t feel like illusion at all: Salinger dreamed Holden Caulfield right into our lives, and 50 years later, he still feels right here, red hat on, striding the American blast, needing us more than ever.” –Cornel BoncaThe Catcher in the Rye a perfect example of a picaresque novel? As you read, be looking for evidence and examples.

Also consider, what is Salinger’s message to his audience and how is Holden a vehicle to convey this message?


Much of the power of Salinger’s novel arises from the honesty and convincingness of his main character. Holden’s narrative voice lures readers to become actively involved with his actions and attitudes. Through a skillful use of vernacular and truthful observations, Salinger makes us believe in and ache for Holden. He becomes on the one hand, a unique character and on the other, a universal Everyman.

In this respect, Holden serves as a character like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who can be reinterpreted each generation. The comparison with Hamlet is particularly apt since, like the Prince, Holden’s major dilemma is trying to cope with society’s corruption and deceit. In both cases, the characters do find peace, but only within their own souls.


Read in this light, honesty and convincingness of his main character. Holden’s narrative voice lures readers to become actively involved with his actions and attitudes. Through a skillful use of vernacular and truthful observations, Salinger makes us believe in and ache for Holden. He becomes on the one hand, a unique character and on the other, a universal Everyman.The Catcher in the Rye becomes a coming-of-age story. Like Huckleberry Finn, A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, and The Great Gatsby, Catcher implies that a loss of innocence is essential if a child is to become an adult. This process is painful, but inevitable.

Other critics have categorized Catcher as a picaresque novel—a book dealing with the adventurers of a wanderer. Still others see Holden as a Christ figure, lunatic—even Peter Pan. The diversity of views only increases the novel’s literary merit.


Criticism controversy
Criticism & Controversy: honesty and convincingness of his main character. Holden’s narrative voice lures readers to become actively involved with his actions and attitudes. Through a skillful use of vernacular and truthful observations, Salinger makes us believe in and ache for Holden. He becomes on the one hand, a unique character and on the other, a universal Everyman.

  • The Catcher in the Rye is not without its detractors and critics. They attack the book’s use of colloquial slang, its cynical central character as an inappropriate role model, its use of profanity and seedy scenes and its lack of didacticism.

  • While these are points to consider, a thorough and objective analysis of the book as a whole can lea to the conclusion that the book is a balance between realism and romanticism that is designed to encourage readers to form their own opinions in relation to, in juxtaposition with, Holden’s opinions.


  • Until 2006, honesty and convincingness of his main character. Holden’s narrative voice lures readers to become actively involved with his actions and attitudes. Through a skillful use of vernacular and truthful observations, Salinger makes us believe in and ache for Holden. He becomes on the one hand, a unique character and on the other, a universal Everyman.The Catcher in the Rye was one of the most frequently banned books.

  • It is in the sense that it teaches without preaching that Catcher is perhaps the best book in the 20th century to address the adolescent stage of human development and may explain its enduring popularity and controversy.

  • Holden Caulfield is such a composite sketch of an American teenager that nearly all readers identify with or see some of their friends reflected in different aspects of Holden’s character.



Catcher john lennon
Catcher they are, while older readers see in Holden a bit of what they once were. & John Lennon:

  • On December 8, 1980 Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon outside his Dakota apartment building.

  • He was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye with him at the time of the murder and even sat down and read a few pages following the shooting, while waiting for the police to arrive.

  • He was obsessed with the book and Holden Caulfield and believed that the book expressed who he was. He thought of himself as a catcher in the rye and thought he needed to kill John Lennon, who he saw as a “phony”.

  • Part of his statement following the murder is as follows:

    Then this morning I went to the bookstore and bought The Catcher in the Rye. I’m sure the large part of me is Holden Caulfield, who is the main person in the book. The small part of me must be the Devil.

  • Creepy, huh?


Some values themes in catcher
Some Values & Themes in they are, while older readers see in Holden a bit of what they once were. Catcher:

  • The need for inner direction and commitment to action

  • A sensitive awareness of life’s compensations: a necessary balance of sympathy and rejection, joy and sorrow

  • The recognition of superficial standards of behavior; the challenge of seeking positive change in one’s moral environment

  • The ability to feel compassion and to expect justice for all

  • The therapeutic worth of honesty in communication with others; the treatment of every person as an individual

  • The learning of universal love and empathy in one’s individual struggle against hypocrisy and worldly corruption


Dominant symbols in catcher
Dominant Symbols in they are, while older readers see in Holden a bit of what they once were. Catcher :

  • The carousel

  • The red hunting cap

  • The catcher’s mitt

  • The ducks in Central Park pond

  • The Museum of Natural History

  • Pencey Prep


Sources
Sources: they are, while older readers see in Holden a bit of what they once were.

  • Perfection Learning Corporation Curriculum Unit: The Catcher in the Rye.

  • Center for Learning Curriculum Unit: The Catcher in the Rye.

  • Contemporary Classics Curriculum Unit: The Catcher in the Rye.

  • Dr. Cornel Bonca: “He Just Wants to Make Us Happy: Salinger’s Holden Caulfield at 50.”


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