The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. A controversial novel originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage angst and alienation. It has been translated into almost all of the world’s major languages. Around 1 milllion copies are sold each year with total sales of more than 65 million books. The novel’s protagonist Holden Caulfield has become an icon for teenage rebellion. The novel also deals with complex issues of innocence, identity, belonging, loss, and connection.
The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923 and it was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, it was listed at #15 on the BBC’s survey The Big Read.
Anyone who has read J.D. Salinger’s New Yorker stories–particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme With Love and Squalor–will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is full of children. 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.
Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”
His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Born in New York in 1919, Jerome David Salinger dropped out of several schools before enrolling in a writing class at Columbia University, publishing his first piece (“The Young Folks”) in Story magazine. Soon after, the New Yorker picked up the heralded “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” and more pieces followed, including “Slight Rebellion off Madison” in 1941, an early Holden Caulfield story. Following a stint in Europe for World War II, Salinger returned to New York and began work on his signature novel, 1951’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” an immediate bestseller for its iconoclastic hero and forthright use of profanity. Following this success, Salinger retreated to his Cornish, New Hampshire, home where he grew increasingly private, eventually erecting a wall around his property and publishing just three more books: “Nine Stories,” “Franny and Zooey,” “Raise High the Roof Beam, and Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.” Salinger was married twice and had two children. He died of natural causes on January 27, 2010, in New Hampshire at the age of 91.