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Catcher in the Rye

CMHS
by

Allison Hesse

on 26 May 2011

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Transcript of Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye A Novel by J.D. Salinger Biography Born January 1, 1919 to the family of a prosperous Manhattan food dealer, Salinger had one older sister. He was educated in New York City except for the last two years of high school. These final years were spent at Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania.

Information about his first six years after graduation is vague. Salinger may have visited Europe and is known to have studied sporadically at New York University, Ursinus College, and Columbia University, concentrating on writing courses. During this time, Salinger published several short stories in popular magazines. Drafted in 1942 and trained in England, Salinger participated in the D-Day invasion.

He continued to write during this period and more stories appeared in print. There was also an alleged marriage to a Frenchwoman, which supposedly ended in divorce in 1947.

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, Catcher in the Rye (1951), brought him unwanted attention, he kept the public eye at bay by refusing all visitors. However, whenever he was trapped, he offered conflicting information and often totally false biographical data.

In 1955, Salinger wed an Englishwoman, Claire Douglas. The Salingers lived in Cornish, New Hampshire, in a fenced-off, isolated farmhouse with their two children. Salinger used a nearby concrete bunker as his writing office. Although the marriage ended in divorce in 1967, Salinger remained in Cornish. To his death he continued to refuse all contact with society, communicating with the world only through his published works. The Philosopher In Salinger’s work, contemporary society is permeated by hypocrisy, injustice, and a lack of love. In this world of artificiality and indifference, Salinger’s sensitive characters invariably suffer.

One of the few saving graces in Salinger’s corrupt world is the purity of childhood. Yet this beautiful, desirable, pristine innocence is short- lived. And since childhood innocence is corrupted by passage into adulthood, Salinger offers little hope for a meaningful existence.

Yet even the changes of maturation can be dealt with if the character develops an all-encompassing love. In a climactic moment in Catcher in the Rye, the main character, Holden, is transformed as he watches younger sister Phoebe on a carousel. Through love, he is at last able to accept the inevitability of change and forgive the wrongdoing of others.

Some readers object that Salinger’s message is based on negative, reactionary attitudes. For example, Holden’s ideals are defined by his disgust with evil, rather than his reverence for good. Yet, when faced with such overwhelming corruption and such varied reasons for despair, even cautious optimism and the chance for salvation is cheering. The Technician Salinger is a writer, first and last. He adamantly rejected the role of a public figure. He also rejected the position of teacher, refusing to talk about his writing or instruct others on his methods.

Although Salinger retreated from the world, his work offers great immediacy and reality. This is partly due to his stylistic gift for recreating idiomatic expression (every day language and slang). In addition, his ability to capture the motivations and desires of the soul show that he had an intuitive grasp of the human character.

Salinger worked like a sculptor, obsessing himself with a single character or theme and reshaping it in a number of ways. He approached the character or theme from various angles until the final forms emerge. Holden Caulfield evolved in this manner. At present, Catcher is Salinger’s only published novel. He considered himself a short story writer. He has written one collection entitled Nine Stories (1953) and three novelettes—Franny and Zooey, Seymour: An Introduction, and Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters—issued as a single work in 1963. He also published approximately twenty other magazine stories.

Although his output seems meager, Salinger’s widespread popular and critical acclaim make every effort seem more valuable.

The fact that Catcher in the Rye continues to sell over a quarter of a million copies annually in the U.S. alone testifies to Salinger’s continuing popularity.

The novel offers realism in its use of language, its use of social criticism where it is due, and 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, and its emphasis on individual discovery and growth. Structure Salinger borrows traditional structures for telling Holden’s story. As in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or Welles’ Time Machine, he utilizes a frame story structure. The outside frame is Holden’s talking to a psychoanalyst: the inside story is Holden’s own narrative, with flashbacks of the events, the “madman stuff” that has led to his arrival in California.

Since this narrative is in first person, autobiographical and episodic, it is PICARESQUE.

It is psychological in that the events narrated are accompanied be Holden’s thoughts. It is also a quest narrative in which Holden seeks to discover truth, values, and, ultimately, himself and his place in the world. “Salinger labored on the novel for 10 years, but the intimacy of Holden’s voice feels effortless. Part of this comes from Salinger’s extraordinary ear for speech.. But it’s not just technique operating here. It’s an inhabitation of character so complete that it amounts to soul ventriloquism—full blown…I don’t think there’s a single other book in American literature in which the narrator so badly needs the reader to understand him and cure his solitude, and there’s no American book in which the novelist creates the illusion of solidarity between his character and the reader more successfully. In fact, the illusion is so strong that it doesn’t feel like illusion at all: Salinger dreamed Holden Caulfield right into our lives, and 50 years later, he still feels right here, red hat on, striding the American blast, needing us more than ever.” –Cornel Bonca The picaresque is a chronicle, usually autobiographical, presenting the life story of a rascal of low degree engaged in menial tasks and making his living more through his wits than industry.

It tends to be episodic and structureless.

The picaro, or central figure, through various pranks and predicaments and by his association with people of varying degree, affords the author an opportunity for satire of the social classes.

Romantic in the sense of being an adventure story, the picaresque novel nevertheless is strongly marked by realism in petty detail and by uninhibited expression. Holden Caulfield: Protagonist Much of the power of Salinger’s novel arises from the honesty and convincingness of his main character.

Holden’s narrative voice lures readers to become actively involved with his actions and attitudes.

Through a skillful use of vernacular and truthful observations, Salinger makes us believe in and ache for Holden. He becomes on the one hand, a unique character and on the other, a universal Everyman.

In this respect, Holden serves as a character like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, who can be reinterpreted each generation. The comparison with Hamlet is particularly apt since, like the Prince, Holden’s major dilemma is trying to cope with society’s corruption and deceit. In both cases, the characters do find peace, but only within their own souls. Read in this light, Catcher in the Rye becomes a coming-of-age story. Like Huckleberry Finn, A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, and The Great Gatsby, Catcher implies that a loss of innocence is essential if a child is to become an adult. This process is painful, but inevitable.

Other critics have categorized Catcher as a picaresque novel—a book dealing with the adventurers of a wanderer. Still others see Holden as a Christ figure, lunatic—even Peter Pan. The diversity of views only increases the novel’s literary merit. Criticism & Controversy The Catcher in the Rye is not without its detractors and critics. They attack the book’s use of colloquial slang, its cynical central character as an inappropriate role model, its use of profanity and seedy scenes and its lack of didacticism (good teaching).

While these are points to consider, a thorough and objective analysis of the book as a whole can lead to the conclusion that the book is a balance between realism and romanticism that is designed to encourage readers to form their own opinions in relation to, in juxtaposition with, Holden’s opinions.

Catcher in the Rye is one of the most frequently banned books.

It is in the sense that it teaches without preaching that Catcher is perhaps the best book in the 20th century to address the adolescent stage of human development and may explain its enduring popularity and controversy.

Holden Caulfield is such a composite sketch of an American teenager that nearly all readers identify with or see some of their friends reflected in different aspects of Holden’s character.

Young readers see in Holden Caulfield a little bit of what they are, while older readers see in Holden a bit of what they once were.

Ultimately, we all know that in some way, Holden is one of us. Values & Themes in Catcher The need for inner direction and commitment to action

A sensitive awareness of life’s compensations: a necessary balance of sympathy and rejection, joy and sorrow

The recognition of superficial standards of behavior; the challenge of seeking positive change in one’s moral environment

The ability to feel compassion and to expect justice for all

The therapeutic worth of honesty in communication with others; the treatment of every person as an individual

The learning of universal love and empathy in one’s individual struggle against hypocrisy and worldly corruption Symbols The carousel
The red hunting cap
The catcher’s mitt
The ducks in Central Park pond
The Museum of Natural History
Pencey Prep
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