A few days after being expelled from his private school, Pencey Prep, Holden Caulfield nears the brink of a mental breakdown, but ends up experiencing a lot of life; from prostitutes, to crazy roommates, to a simple day with his little sister. The reader is just lucky enough to be along for the ride, one which they’ll never forget.
J.D. Salinger was the original “voice for teens.” No one has ever written so well a voice as strong an unabashed as Holden Caulfield’s. People of all ages still read Catcher in the Rye, as it lends itself to multiple re-reads throughout lifetimes and generations. Like those who read Mark Twain, those looking for a plot in Salinger’s work will be “shot,” or at the very least, disappointed. Perhaps then they should expect to find a slice-of-life, but one so well-written that you forget it’s even fiction. Catcher in the Rye takes place in just a few days of Holden’s life, but those few days will stay with a reader forever.
When Holden Caulfield is kicked out of his Pencey Prep, he has a number of adventures and revelations before he goes back home to tell his parents.
About the Author
J.D. Salinger was “famous for not wanting to be famous.” He died this year at the age of 91, relatively still hidden from the world. He was known for not wanting his picture included on his books and for wanting to destroy fan mail. Joyce Maynard and Salinger’s daughter Margaret both published memoirs about Salinger, but above all else, he seemed to value his privacy.
He was born in Manhattan in 1919, and flunked out of his first high school, much like Holden. He went on to do well at a military academy, was drafted by the military, spent time in different universities here and there, and finally was first published in The New York Times.
He is best known for Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, and Franny and Zoey.
McGrath, C. (2010). J.D. Salinger, literary recluse, dies at 91.The New York Times. Retrieved December 13th, 2010 from http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/29/books/29salinger.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1.
–“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(Salinger, p.1)
-If Holden Caulfield seems bad-mouthed today, how do you think he was received in the 1950s?
Reading Level/Interest Age
Catcher includes horrendous language and Holden’s mishaps with a prostitute, as well as under-age drinking. But this is all part and partial to Holden’s bad boy persona, and not really representative of who, or what, the book is really about, which, in Holden’s more tender and emotionally-driven moments, becomes clear as the preservation of childhood. The very thing that parents want for their children, and the reason they often challenge books at all.
Why Did You Include This Book?
When I was a teenager, I had a crush on Holden Caulfield. Not because he was cute and I had a poster of him in my closet, but because his mind was an interesting place to be, and I thought that it was pretty cool that there might be a boy out there who thought about things the way that I did, in a heartbreakingly-sensitive but rebel-cool kind of way.
I’m not the only one who felt this way, as a whole generation related to Holden when he first hit shelves in 1951.
The novel continues to sell more than 250,000 copies a year in paperback, to this day.