An Introduction to Catcher in the Rye By: J.D. Salinger
J.D. Salinger • Alienation is a major theme in both Jerome David Salinger’s life and work. • He seems determined to retreat from society and has succeeded in obscuring most of his private life.
Early Life • Born January 1, 1919 in New York City • Intelligent, but poor student. After flunking out of McBurney School he was sent to Valley Forge military academy in Wayne, PA • It was from his experience at Valley Forge that he based Pencey Prep – the school Holden Caulfield attends in the novel
Writing Career • Salinger graduated from Valley Forge in 1936 and attended New York University for one year before dropping out. • Information about his first six years after graduation is vague. • During this time, Salinger published several short stories in popular magazines.
Writing Career • 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.
Later Life • Published his last short story in 1965 • Died January 27th, 2010 at his home in Cornish of natural causes • He was 91 years old
Banned Book • Catcher in the Rye has been banned and censored numerous times due to its use of profanity and perceived glorification of rebellion. • In the 1980’s, it was simultaneously the most frequently banned book in the U.S. and the 2nd most frequently taught book in the U.S.
Why we still read it? • Catcher remains popular due to its appeal to many age groups. • Young readers identify with the main character’s rebellion against the adult world. • Adults in the 1950’s could identify with themes of conformity and repression. • Adults today are reminded of their feelings as a child
The Philosopher: • In Salinger’s novels, society is full of hypocrisy, injustice, and a lack of love. • In this fake and uncaring world Salinger’s sensitive characters suffer. • Therefore, the purity of childhood is a major theme and symbol in Salinger’s novels. • However childhood innocence is destroyed by a passage into adulthood. • It is at these crossroads that we meet Holden Caulfield.
The Technician: • Salinger works like a sculptor. • He obsesses himself with a 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.
The novel offers realism: • in its use of language, • its use of social criticism • 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 • its emphasis on individual discovery and growth.
Overview of the Novel • Protagonist is Holden Caulfield: a 16 year old boy who has just been expelled from his current school, Pencey Prep. • Set in New York City • Themes: • Alienation and Isolation • Loss of innocence and coming of age • Phoniness of the adult world