Jerome David Salinger started writing short story in secondary school. His most notable work “The Catcher in the Rye”, published on 1951, was recognized as one of the best novels of the 20th century. Written and published originally for adults, the book portrays the complexities, alienation, and identity crisis in teenage life.
The “Catcher in the Rye” received much recognition. The former president George W. Bush expressed his pleasure in reading the book remarking “[it’s] a marvelous book”, and among the one’s which influence him.
Some noted the inspiration which the book brought forth even after its time:
“as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager.
Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated,
isolated, directionless, and sarcastic.”
Finlo Rohrer of BBC
J.D. Salinger’s novel had completely earned him much respect. But despite its wide recognition and awards, “The Catcher in the Rye” also received criticism. The short novel contains much of the colloquial speech of the teenagers from that time and was challenged for its profanity and sexual content. From the book one could read 237 “goddam,” 58 “bastard,” 31 appearances of “Chrissake,” and 6 “fuck.” Furthermore, according to American Library Association, this book was listed as the tenth most frequently challenged book during 1990-1999.
The story features 16 year old Holden Caulfield who found himself in constant displeasure in the ‘phoniness’ of the adolescent life. Holden tells a story which is about an adventure he went through from having teenage identity crisis. After being suspended from his school and a fight with his friend, Holden goes to New York. There, his sexuality as an adolescent was challenged. Jumping from his hotel to a nightclub, he attempted to lose his virginity.
He meets with his ex-girlfriend and asks her to run away with him. She refused him and their meeting end up with more misery for Holden. After his drunkenness and misery from seeking the phoniness he hated, Holden went back to his parent’s apartment and meet his sister. There he envisions himself to be the catcher in the rye after his own interpretation of Robert Burn’s “Coming through the Rye”. He thinks of himself as a person to catch young people from losing their innocence.
After finding out of this vision, he tackles this with his former English teacher. Mr. Antolini, his professor explained that the mark of the mature man to live humbly for a cause, rather than die nobly for it. Holden woke up the next morning with his professor patting his head in a manner which is ‘flitty’ for him a homosexual behavior. Finally, Holden decided to leave and head out west; his sister who wanted to come with him, changes his mind. The story ended with Holden reminding readers that sharing people of their experience would cause them to miss those who might have shared in the same story.
While realistically depicting the teenage life, the rebellion and angst of a young age, the book was challenged by many controversies. Though it is best read by young adults, the “Catcher in the Rye” was censored in high schools and libraries in the U.S. between 1961 and 1982.