The Catcher in the Rye Jerome David Salinger
J.D. Salinger • Born 1919 in New York City to parents Sol and Miriam; father was Jewish, mother, Catholic.
J.D. Salinger • Flunked out of a progressive school • Enrolled in Valley Forge Military Academy • Distinguished himself as writer in second semester of night class at Colombia University.
J.D. Salinger • Constantly expressed the desire to be a well-known author • Started a life-long pattern of continuous writing • 1941: “Slight Rebellion Off Madison”, in The New Yorker • “Slight Rebellion” is a precursor to The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger • Served in WWII: was one of first soldiers to enter a liberated concentration camp • Was treated for shell shock after the war
J.D. Salinger • Published additional works: • The Catcher in the Rye (1951) • Nine Stories • Franny and Zooey • Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction • Met and began correspondence with Ernest Hemingway while overseas; E.H. called Salinger “a helluva talent”
J.D. Salinger • Catcher was a best seller • Salinger did not like the fame, started refusing interviews • “Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut”, a short story, was adapted to film: My Foolish Heart; Salinger hated it • Salinger became increasingly reclusive
Salinger the Recluse • Moved to Cornish, NH • Interviewed by high school students; interview turned into feature piece • Salinger built a 6.5-foot fence around his property • Refused to answer fan mail • Avoided the press
Controversy • Two unflattering memoirs about him: his daughter and his former lover • Fought publication of his letters in court • Fought a “sequel” to Catcher • Refused any film adaptations • Died at age 91 in January 2010.
The Catcher in the Rye • Published in 1951 • Has sold over 65 million copies—more than the dictionary.
The Catcher in the Rye Historically banned for vulgar language and sexual content
The Catcher in the Rye • On December 8, 1980 Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon. • Was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye with him • Was obsessed with the book and Holden Caulfield; 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.
Praise • Time magazine named it one of the best novels of the 20th century. • For many Catcher is not only a coming of age story; reading it is a coming of age “rite of passage”
What is it about? • Tells the story of a teenager, Holden Caulfield, who is expelled from his private school in the late 1940’s. • He takes us on his 48 hour journey across NYC.
The book deals with sex, alcohol, school, teachers, hypocrisy, family, superficial society, and being a teenager. • The plot is narrated “stream of consciousness” style.
Holden Caulfield • Holden is the main character and narrator. • He is 16 years old. • He has a kid sister named Phoebe. • He thinks most people are “phonies”.
He listens to jazz music, which was popular amongst teens in the 1950s. • Listening to jazz and rock was considered rebellious.
The 1950’s • The 1950’s was an era of change, something Holden Caulfield is not ready to accept.
Briefly…Post-War America • Symbols and signs ofoptimism and wealth: *the car- gaudy colors & chrome * the supermarket *home appliances * the suburbs
The Problem? • While the mainstream was embracing the consumerism and suburban family, how do you think those that didn’t embrace it felt?
Holden’s Quests • Holden is looking for THREE things: • The Innocence of Childhood • Wants things to remain the same as when he was younger • Love • Identity • What do I do with my life? What does this all mean? • How do I live up to expectations and still be an individual?
Themes • Youthful innocence and loss • Alienation and isolation of the individual in modern society • Failure to live up to parental and society’s expectations • Longing for truth • Adolescent misfits • Dealing with change
Symbols • The “Catcher in the Rye” • Holden’s red hunting hat • Allie’s baseball glove • The Museum of Natural History • The ducks in the Central Park pond • Pency Prep • The carousel
Style • The novel is written in informal English and is full of slang and profanities. • When the novel was first published, people were horrified by the language. • Some critics went through and counted how many times profane words were used.
Realism and Romanticism • Realism is a literary technique popular in American literature. Characteristics: • Character is more important than action and plot • Class is important
Realism • Events in the novel are believable • Tone is may be comic, sarcastic, or matter-of-fact • Language is “natural”
Realism • The novel offers Realism in the following ways: • Its use of language • Its use of social criticism where it is due • Its presentation of real problems which adolescents face in the process of achieving maturity.
Romanticism 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.
Journal Response • Put yourself into Holden’s shoes. What would you do if you were expelled from school and knew that your parents would not know you were expelled for two days? • Plan out those two days and please keep your responses school appropriate.