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J. D. Salinger. Childhood (“…all that David Copperfield kind of crap”). Born Jerome David (Sonny) Salinger on Jan. 1, 1919, in New York City Grew up near Central Park in upper Manhattan Son of a Jewish father (foods wholesaler and importer) and Christian mother

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childhood all that david copperfield kind of crap
Childhood(“…all that David Copperfield kind of crap”)

Born Jerome David (Sonny) Salinger on Jan. 1, 1919, in New York City

Grew up near Central Park in upper Manhattan

Son of a Jewish father (foods wholesaler and importer) and Christian mother

Upper-middle class family

molding salinger into a splendid clear thinking young man
Molding Salinger into a “Splendid, Clear-thinking Young Man”

Attended two private schools

First was Manhattan’s McBurney School

Drama, journalism, manager of fencing team

Flunked out

Next attended Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, PA

Began writing stories

Graduated in 1936


Attended New York University for one month in 1936

Was called “the worst English student in the history of the college” by one of his professors

Quit school at father’s request to go to Austria and Poland to learn meat and cheese business (venture failed)

Attended Ursinus College (PA), but quit to study fiction at Columbia University

military service
Military Service

Drafted in 1942

Served with Counter Intelligence Corps

Saw action at Utah Beach, Normandy on “D-Day,” and at Battle of the Bulge

Met and corresponded with Ernest Hemingway

adult life
Adult Life

After war lived with parents in New York and associated with bohemians in Greenwich Village

By 1950 moved to Cornish, New Hampshire

Married; fathered two children

writing career
Writing Career

35 stories, 1 novel, and 4 novellas

The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

Reputation rests largely on this novel: It took 10 years to write

Franny and Zooey, Nine Stories, Raise High the Roofbeam Carpenters, and Seymour: An Introduction

Many of his works revolve around a fictional family of geniuses

a recluse and a loner
A Recluse and a Loner
  • Stopped communicating with outsiders
  • In 1967 he stopped publishing and

obtained a divorce

  • Last interview in 1974
  • Died Jan. 27, 2010

Did not publish any new work since 1960s

Deeply into Zen mysticism

In 1965, Salinger further withdrew from society and put a 6-foot fence around his property

the catcher in the rye
The Catcher in the Rye

Published in 1951

Initially reviewed as a “rare miracle of fiction”

Generally received as a literary sensation

Dissenting opinion gradually arose, in part due to use of profanity

Banned and condemned by some communities and school boards – it was the 13th most frequently challenged book of the 1990s

The action is not vital; the psychological state of narrator is much more important

Book covers a time span of four days

Principle setting is New York City, which plays such an important part that it can almost be considered another character in the story

back page preview 1951 possibly written by salinger
Back Page Preview (1951)(Possibly written by Salinger)

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days.

The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it.

There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices – but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.

so far chapters 1 6
So Far: Chapters 1-6

Name three reasons why Stradlater annoys or upsets Holden (either Stradlater’s actions or characteristics). (3 points)

What is the potential symbolic importance of Holden’s red hunting hat? (2 points)

Allie’s baseball glove is one of the dominating symbols of the novel. What do we know about it so far? (2 points)

How did Holden react when Allie died? (1 point)

Name two things we know about Jane so far. (2 points)

Name two things Holden does – one for Stradlater, one for Ackley – that shows he is a more decent person than his cynical veneer indicates. (2 points)

thoughts chapters 1 6
Thoughts: Chapters 1-6

Themes and motifs

  • We will frame our reading and discussion within the following themes, motifs, etc:
    • Alienation as a form of self-protection
    • The pain of growing up
    • Phoniness
    • Relationships, sexuality
    • Loneliness
    • Symbols
thoughts chapters 1 61
Thoughts: Chapters 1-6
  • Alienation as a form of self-protection
    • It’s ironic that Holden doesn’t turn the microscope on himself (introspection): He may see that he and Ackley have much in common.
    • Pencey is not a healthy environment for Holden: Stradlater completely disses Holden’s essay about Allie’s baseball glove then later beats Holden up. Ackley is insensitive to Holden’s needs.
thoughts chapters 1 62
Thoughts: Chapters 1-6
  • Pain of growing up
    • Holden seems to fear growing older. Remember his physical description of Spencer.
    • Allie’s death weighs on Holden more than Holden lets on. Holden’s reaction to Allie’s death was violent and extreme: He smashed out the windows in the garage. He didn’t attend the funeral because he was hospitalized. (Holden also instantly recalls the exact day Allie died.)
    • Holden obviously revered his little brother, who sounds intelligent and unique. He kept Allie’s glove and took it to school with him.
thoughts chapters 1 63
Thoughts: Chapters 1-6
  • Phoniness
    • Holden hates “phonies.” He thinks D.B. has prostituted himself in Hollywood; he hates movies (although he apparently has seen a lot of them); Pencey seems populated by the very phonies Holden suppposedly despises, from the teachers to Stradlater.
    • Yet, Holden’s kindness toward these people shows through when he talks Brossard into letting Ackley come to the movies with them, and Holden agrees to write Stradlater’s essay for him.
thoughts chapters 1 64
Thoughts: Chapters 1-6
  • Relationships, sexuality
    • Jane obviously means a lot to Holden. He gets really nervous thinking that Stradlater (who doesn’t even get her name right) might make a move on her in the back seat of a car. (Remember, Stradlater seems to be pretty experienced at such things: He’s a “sexy guy.”)
thoughts chapters 1 65
Thoughts: Chapters 1-6
  • Loneliness
    • That Holden seeks Ackley’s company before Holden leaves Pencey shows how desperate Holden is for companionship.
thoughts chapters 1 66
Thoughts: Chapters 1-6
  • Symbols
    • Holden’s red hunting hat: He pretends he doesn’t care what people think of his appearance (although there seems to be some insecurity over his height, weight, and gray hair), but he takes it off when he wants to downplay his uniqueness (at the football game; Spencer’s, etc.)
    • Allie’s baseball mitt: It’s left-handed, making it somewhat unique, like Allie. Holden keeps the glove to himself (although he shows it to Jane) – a symbol of innocence and childhood (in turn, represented by Allie).
chapters 7 12 thoughts
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • Phoniness
    • Holden is very annoyed with Ackley’s phoniness. Yet, Holden tells extravagant lies to Mrs. Morrow about her son Ernie; he uses a fake name; and even claims to be leaving Pencey because of a brain tumor.
    • This constant lying is evidence of immaturity and even imbalance, but are his intentions cruel, kind, or simply careless?
    • Holden constantly berates movies as phony, but he clearly has seen a lot of them.
chapters 7 12 thoughts1
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • Loneliness
    • On his way to New York, Holden wants to call someone but can’t think of anyone: D.B. is in Hollywood; his sister, Phoebe, is young and probably asleep; he “doesn’t feel like” calling Jane; and Sally Hayes’s mom hates Holden.
    • He keeps mentioning though that he wants to call Phoebe, who sounds a lot like Allie: red hair; unusually clever for her age; humorous (She writes fictional stories about “HazleWeatherfield,” whose last name she adopts as her middle name.)
    • Phoebe is Holden’s soul mate
chapters 7 12 thoughts2
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • Even though it’s late when Holden gets to his hotel room, he is almost on a desperate mission for human interaction, from Faith Cavendish, to the girls at the Lavender Lounge, to even the cab drivers.
  • Note Holden’s slip with the first cabbie: He gives the cabbie his home address. This may indicate Holden’s subconscious yearning for home.
chapters 7 12 thoughts3
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • Pain of growing up
  • Holden keeps asking where the ducks go in winter.
  • This may be his way of expressing fear and sadness that the ducks are there one day, gone the next – just like Allie.
  • He may also need reassurance that they (and Allie) are OK, wherever they are.
chapters 7 12 thoughts4
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • Sexuality
    • What Holden sees through his window at the Edmont Hotel both confuses and excites him. So he calls Faith Cavendish, a promiscuous girl recommended to him by a former classmate.
    • On the other hand, Holden thinks people should only have sex if they care deeply about one another, and the “crumby” behavior he sees seems disrespectful (although on some level, he seems to like it).
    • What bothers him is his perception that sexual attraction can be separate from respect and intimacy, and that sex can be kinky.
    • He meets the three older women in the Lavender Room, who depress him for being enamored with fame and famous people. His flirting is comical and ultimately humiliating for him.
    • “Sex is something I don’t understand. I swear to God I don’t.”
chapters 7 12 thoughts5
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • He clearly also has affection for Jane Gallagher: the only person outside of his family that he has shown Allie’s glove to.
  • He loves her idiosyncrasies: golfing with her eyes closed; moving her mouth in all directions when she speaks; keeping her kings in the back row.
  • Jane is an example of Holden’s devotion to those he sees as innocent; he can’t protect her from the Stradlaters of the world, and it frustrates him.
  • Their physical relationship was mild: Holden was completely enthralled when they merely held hands and when Jane put her hand on the back of his neck.
chapters 7 12 thoughts6
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • Symbols: The red hat revisited
    • Uniqueness and individuality.
    • He is very self-conscious about it. He mentions it every time he wears it, and often does not wear it if he is going to be around people he knows.
    • This mirrors Holden’s need for isolation versus his need for companionship.
    • The hat connects him to Allie (and Phoebe)
chapters 7 12 thoughts7
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • Writing structure
    • Salinger cleverly structures the narrative to signal there is more to the story than Holden lets on, all of which contributes to Holden’s decreasing mental stability.
    • Holden never seems particularly concerned about his own behavior. He often seems angry but rarely discusses his feelings.
    • What emerges, however, is the desperation, pressure, and trauma he endures during this difficult time in his life.
chapters 7 12 thoughts8
Chapters 7-12: Thoughts
  • He never mentions himself. He avoids introspection and reflection on his own shortcomings and problems by focusing on the world around him, usually critically.
  • However, his focus on other people reveals the extent to which he longs for companionship, love, and compassion.
  • After her stepfather’s intrusion, Jane is overwhelmed by a pain she cannot articulate. This is similar to Holden’s situation.
  • He is struggling with pain he can’t talk about with anyone in the book.
chapters 13 15 lingering thoughts
Chapters 13-15: Lingering thoughts
  • Loneliness
  • Holden’s encounter with Sunny: In addition to his moral refusal to go through with it, he is also depressed about her age, which is very close to his. He hates the thought of the store clerk who sold her the dress doing so in the ignorance that she is a typical teenage girl buying a new dress, when it really is her uniform.
  • Interesting note: J.D. Salinger at one time sold one of his short stories to be made into a Hollywood film, which he hated and regretted, which may be why Holden refers to D.B. as a “prostitute” who sold out his writing art.
  • When Salinger was a boy, his nickname was “Sonny.”