The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger caused much controversy when it was first published in 1951 due to the provocative language for the season and by speaking so openly about sexuality and alcohol. Between 1961 and 1982, the catcher in the rye was the most book censored in libraries and schools in the United States. To the delight of many, this situation changed. At present, the novel is considered one of the hundred best of the 20th century. The novel is included in the list of required readings in secondary education (high school) in the United States. Each year around 250,000 copies are sold, and around 65 million copies have been sold since its publication.
The story focuses on the life of Holden Caulfield, a teenager of 17 years in conflict with himself and the world. Holden comes from a wealthy family who lives in New York City, and until recently was a student of the Pencey, a renowned Prep school in Pennsylvania. He gets expelled from the school though, because he fails all his classes, except English. With the Christmas holiday approaching. The students of the college each go to their homes on the next Wednesday, but as he was expelled; he doesn’t feel like waiting until that day to go. Then, he decides to leave on Saturday. Because he doesn’t want to get to his house before Wednesday. The book tells what happens with Holden from Saturday until the day that he returns home. Bars, drunkenness, and long walks are part of those days in the life of Holden. An old friend, a prostitute, her younger sister Phoebe, a former professor… these are some of the people that he interacts with during those days.
One of the main features of the book is the vocabulary; Holden is constantly expressing great displeasure with everything and everyone around him. He uses much profanity in doing so. Through Holden one can have an idea of how adolescents were at that time, and the problems faced. In addition, Holden describes the city of New York in a way that allows us to see in our mind what he has written. He gives masterful descriptions of everything. The biggest success of this book is in that it is very easy to feel identified with the main character, no matter what age we are when we read this book. He faces problems of identity, belonging and connection. I would venture to say that we all at some point in our lives find ourselves in similar situations. One might be surprised and wonder about the motives behind Holden Caulfield’s attitude, but we must not forget that has gone through some traumatic experiences. His younger brother Allie died of leukemia. The two were very good friends, and Holden suffered much after his death. Another traumatic experience is that he witnesses the suicide of a school mate. These experiences influenced Holden in a great way and it is therefore understandable that J.D. Salinger would write Holden with a brooding, cynical and melancholic attitude toward life. The Catcher in the Rye is definitely one of those books where one is taken on a journey of deep exploration into the mind of the main character.