In 1919 Jerome David Salinger was born to Sol and Miriam Jillich Salinger. This man would have a moderately normal childhood attending the private McBurney School in Manhattan, and afterwards the Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, where he graduated in 1936. He then attended New York University for an unsuccessful summer session in short-story writing. This 20th century novelist would later come to be known as J. D. Salinger and write many short stories. This impressive list of books include Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction, and For Esme- With Love and Squalor, and by far his most impressive composition and only novel, The Catcher in the Rye.
The Catcher in the Rye is a novel told in a first- person perspective by Holden Caulfield, a cynical, reclusive teenager who, among many other things, is taking an arduous voyage from childhood and innocence to experience and maturity. Catcher in the Rye’s setting somewhat parallels Salinger’s environment during his early life. This novel takes place in the 1950’s and starts out in the autumn at Pencey Prep a private boy’s preparatory school and later in New York City, while the last chapter takes place in an insane asylum.The protagonist and antagonist Holden Caulfield is a cynical, melancholy teen who is a very dynamic personality in this book. He is the only character, which appears throughout the book. He comes in contact with many other characters that have a strong impact on the decisions he makes.Stradlater, Holden’s athletic, popular, rich roommate at Pencey is the exact opposite of every characteristic that Holden possesses. Even though they are so contrasted, they seem to get along most of the time. Allie Caulfield, is a character used off-stage to bring out qualities in Holden. Allie was Holden’s brother who died at an early age due to leukemia. Holden respects him very much and you can tell just from his description of Allie that he loved his brother more than anything, as he describes a nervous breakdown that occurred after Allie’s death. Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s younger sister who holds striking similarities to Allie. She makes Holden re-evaluate his decisions and look into his conscience. After being kicked out of yet another school Holden Caulfield cannot face reality at home and confront his parents. He roams the streets of New York while in a declivity of misery and depression.He eventually experiences a nervous breakdown. Due to this internal conflict he proves to be his own arch-nemesis and antagonist. His nervous breakdown would be considered the climax of this story. This breakdown is brought on by Holden wanting to get rid of all evil things in the world for children (specifically Phoebe). While Holden is in the Egyptian tomb exhibit at the Metropolitan Art Museum, a place where he feels safe and sanitary he encounters profanity (evil) etched in crayon at the exhibit. He tries to get rid of the words but has an epiphany, realizing that he will never be able to get rid of all evil and restore the innocence he had as a child. Without being aware of it, during his time in the exhibit he decides on life or death. After going unconscious for a short period of time, he feels better and decides to live. The denouement starts after Holden wakes and chooses life. Next, he has a huge cognizance. Phoebe and he go to the zoo to ride the carousel. Holden tries to protect Phoebe from getting hurt while reaching for a set of golden rings. As he describes it “The thing is with kids, if they want to reach for the gold rings, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off.” He then realizes that there is no way to protect Phoebe (or other children) in the world and that here will never be a place of complete innocence in the world.
In conclusion, this is a greatly dynamic book with one underlying theme of growing up. There are many factors that deals with growing up and everyone at some point in life must deal with this metamorphosis. There are many different aspects that deal with growing up, such as, loss of innocence, finding your place in society, comprehending that you cannot run away from your problems and that there are things you cannot change. This book touches base with all of these topics. There is also a myriad of symbolism in this book. For example: Holden Caulfield (The protagonists name) and the name of the book The Catcher in the Rye are tied together; Hold-Catch and Field-Rye.Another worthy example of symbolism in this novel is when Phoebe is reaching for the gold rings. The gold rings, as explained in the book are ironically brass-plated iron. The gold rings are a symbol of society, which wears a false front to hide its evil. Holden sees how his sister is reaching for the “society or adult world” not knowing that she could fall, which ties into the theme. The 3rd reason this book could be considered a classic is because of its history. After its first publication, this book was banned because of its vulgar language and description of a nervous break down and near suicide attempt. This novel could have been a factor in the assassination of John Lennon by Mark David Chapman. Chapman asked Beatle John Lennon to sign a copy of the book the morning he killed Lennon. Police found the book in the possession upon arresting the psychologically disturbed Chapman. This incident gave The Catcher in the Rye even more notoriety. This novel is influential because of its universal theme, which applies to everyone from every walk of life, and because of its colorful symbolism and ability to persuade peoples’ actions.
This paper earned me an 87%. My teacher found the last reason this book was a classic to be irrelevant.