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An Introduction to Catcher in the Rye

By: J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger
Alienation is a major theme in both Jerome David Salingers 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.

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.

Writing Career

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 1980s, 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 characters rebellion against the adult world. Adults in the 1950s could identify with themes of conformity and repression. Adults today are reminded of their feelings as a child

The Philosopher:
In Salingers novels, society is full of hypocrisy, injustice, and a lack of love. In this fake and uncaring world Salingers sensitive characters suffer. Therefore, the purity of childhood is a major theme and symbol in Salingers novels. However childhood innocence is destroyed by a passage into adulthood. It is at these crossroads that we

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.

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

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

Alienation and Isolation Loss of innocence and coming of age Phoniness of the adult world