The Catcher in the Rye

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
The Catcher in the Rye  

First edition cover
Author J.D. Salinger
Country United States
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Little, Brown and Company
Publication date 16 July 1952
Media type print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 276 pp
ISBN 0-316-76953-3
Preceded by N/A
Followed by Nine Stories (1953)
The cover of the 1985 Bantam edition.

The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel by J. D. Salinger. Originally published for adults, [1] the novel has become a common part of high school and college curricula throughout the English-speaking world; it has also been translated into almost all of the world's major languages.[2] Around 250,000 copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than sixty-five million.[3] The novel's antihero, Holden Caulfield, has become an icon for teenage rebellion and defiance.[4]

The novel was chosen by Time among the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005,[5] and by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged[6][7][8] in the United States for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and teenage angst.


[edit] Plot summary

The first-person narrative follows Holden's experiences in New York City in the days following his expulsion from Pencey Prep, a fictional college preparatory school in Pennsylvania.

Holden shares encounters he has had with students and faculty of Pencey, whom he criticizes as being superficial, or as he would say, "phoney." After being expelled, Holden packs up and leaves the school in the middle of the night following an altercation with his roommate. He takes a train to New York, but does not want to return to his family's apartment immediately, and instead checks into the derelict Edmont Hotel. There he spends an evening dancing with three tourist girls and has a clumsy encounter with a prostitute; he refuses to do anything with her and tells her to leave, although he pays her for her time. She demands more money than was originally agreed upon and when Holden refuses to pay he is struck by her pimp.

Holden spends a total of two days in the city, characterized largely by drunkenness and loneliness. At one point he ends up at a museum, where he contrasts his life with the statues of Eskimos on display. For as long as he can remember, the statues have been fixed and unchanging. It is clear to the reader, if not to Holden, that the teenager is afraid and nervous about the process of change and growing up. These concerns may largely have stemmed from the death of his brother, Allie. Eventually, while his parents are away, he sneaks into his parents' apartment to visit his younger sister Phoebe, who is nearly the only person with whom he seems to be able to communicate. Holden shares a fantasy he has been thinking about (based on a mishearing of Robert Burns's Comin' Through the Rye): he pictures himself as the sole guardian of numerous children running and playing in a huge rye field on the edge of a cliff. His job is to catch the children if they wander close to the brink, to be a "catcher in the rye" as it were.

After leaving his parents' apartment, Holden drops by to see his old English teacher, Mr. Antolini, in the middle of the night, and is offered advice on life and a place to sleep. During his speech on life, Mr. Antolini has several drinks. Holden is upset when he wakes up to find Mr. Antolini patting his head in a way that seems "perverty." It is left up to the reader to decide whether or not this is true. Holden leaves and spends his last afternoon wandering the city.

Holden intends to move onto a ranch in Colorado, and relays these plans to his sister, who decides she wants to go with him. He refuses to take her, instead telling her that he himself will no longer go. Holden then takes Phoebe to the Central Park Zoo, where he watches with a melancholy joy as she rides a carousel, happily reaching for the gold ring on each turn. At the close of the book, Holden decides not to mention much about the present day, finding it inconsequential. He does mention that he'll be attending another school in September, and that he has found himself missing Stradlater, Ackley, and the others--warning the reader that the same thing could happen to them.

[edit] Interpretation

Writer Bruce Brooks noted that Holden's attitude remains unchanged at story's end, implying no maturation, thus differentiating the novel from young adult fiction[9]. Analogously, Louis Menand says teachers assign it because of the optimistic ending, to teach adolescent readers that "alienation is just a phase."[10] While Brooks maintains that Holden acts his age, Menand observes that Holden thinks as an adult, given his ability to accurately perceive people and their motives. The Catcher in the Rye has been interpreted as positing only a negative answer to the social problems it criticizes; its philosophy is negatively compared with that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[11]

Each Caulfield child has literary talent: D.B. writes screenplays in Hollywood; Holden passed his English course, though failed everything else; Allie writes poetry; and Phoebe is a diarist. Moreover, her character is an important influence upon Holden; her name denotes and derives from the Greek Phoibus — the Greek god for the sun and the moon, suggesting she is oracle and catalyst for the boy who sees himself as the catcher in the rye at a cliff-side rye field where children play tag, whom he catches, and saves from themselves, when they stray too near the edge.[12] This "catcher in the rye" is an analogy for Holden who sees these children playing tag as innocent and pure. Falling off the cliff would be a progression into adulthood and maturity (which he often views as a digression from this innocence into a negative world). Later, Phoebe and Holden exchange roles as the Catcher and the Fallen; he gives her his hunting hat, the catcher's symbol, and becomes the fallen as Phoebe becomes the catcher.[13]

[edit] Reaction

In his review for The New York Times, James Stern wrote a negative review of the book,[14] while Nash K. Burger called it "an unusually brilliant novel".[15]

[edit] Controversy

In 1960, a teacher was fired, and later reinstated, for assigning the novel in class.[16] Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.[17] In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.[18] According to the American Library Association, The Catcher in the Rye was the thirteenth most frequently challenged book from 1990–2000.[6] It was one of the ten most challenged books in 2005, and came off the list in 2006.[19]

The challenges generally begin with vulgar language, citing the novel's use of words like fuck[20] and "goddam",[21] with more general reasons including sexual references,[22] blasphemy, undermining of family values[21] and moral codes,[23] Holden's being a poor role model,[24] encouragement of rebellion,[25] and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, and promiscuity.[23] Often, the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself.[17] Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher who faced objections after assigning the novel in her class, noted that the challengers "are being just like Holden ... They are trying to be catchers in the rye."[21] A reverse effect has been that this incident caused people to put themselves on the waiting list to borrow the novel, when there were none before.[26]

Mark David Chapman's shooting of John Lennon, John Hinckley, Jr.'s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, and other murders have been associated with the novel.[27][28]

[edit] Attempted film adaptations

Early in his career, J. D. Salinger expressed a willingness to have his work adapted for the screen.[29] However, in 1949, a critically panned film version of his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" was released; renamed My Foolish Heart and taking great liberties with Salinger's plot, the film is widely considered to be among the reasons that Salinger has refused to allow any subsequent movie adaptations of his work.[30] The enduring popularity of The Catcher in the Rye, however, has resulted in repeated attempts to secure the novel's screen rights.

When The Catcher in the Rye was first released, many offers were made to adapt it for the screen; among them was Sam Goldwyn, producer of My Foolish Heart.[30] In a letter written in the early fifties, Salinger spoke of mounting a play in which he would play the role of Holden Caulfield opposite Margaret O'Brien, and, if he couldn’t play the part himself, to “forget about it." Almost fifty years later, the writer Joyce Maynard definitively concluded, "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."[31]

Salinger told Maynard in the seventies that Jerry Lewis "tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden,"[31] despite Lewis not having read the novel until he was in his thirties.[26] Celebrities ranging from Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson to Tobey Maguire and Leonardo DiCaprio have since made efforts to make a film adaptation.[32] In an interview with Premiere magazine, John Cusack commented that his one regret about turning twenty-one was that he had become too old to play Holden Caulfield. Writer-director Billy Wilder recounted his abortive attempts to snare the novel's rights:

Of course I read The Catcher in the Rye....Wonderful book. I loved it. I pursued it. I wanted to make a picture out of it. And then one day a young man came to the office of Leland Hayward, my agent, in New York, and said, 'Please tell Mr. Leland Hayward to lay off. He’s very, very insensitive.' And he walked out. That was the entire speech. I never saw him. That was J. D. Salinger and that was Catcher in the Rye.[33]

In 1961, Salinger denied Elia Kazan permission to direct a stage adaptation of Catcher for Broadway.[34] More recently, Salinger's agents received bids for the Catcher movie rights from Harvey Weinstein and Steven Spielberg,[35] neither of which was even passed on to Salinger for consideration.

In 2003, the BBC television program The Big Read featured The Catcher in the Rye, intercutting discussions of the novel with "a series of short films that featured an actor playing Salinger's adolescent antihero, Holden Caulfield."[34] The show defended its unlicensed adaptation of the novel by claiming to be a "literary review," and no major charges were filed.

According to a speculative article in The Guardian in May 2006, there are rumors that director Terrence Malick has been linked to a possible screen adaptation of the novel.[36]

[edit] Cultural References

[edit] References

  1. ^ Michael Cart (2000-11-15). "Famous Firsts. (young-adult literature)". Booklist. Retrieved on 2007-12-20. 
  2. ^ Magill, Frank N. (1991). "J. D. Salinger". Magill's Survey of American Literature. New York: Marshall Cavendish Corporation. pp. 1803. ISBN 1-85435-437-X. 
  3. ^ According to List of best-selling books. An earlier article says more than twenty million: Jonathan Yardley (2004-10-19). "J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly". The Washington Post. Retrieved on 2007-01-21. 
  4. ^ Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of Allusions By Elizabeth Webber, Mike Feinsilber p.105
  5. ^ Grossman, Lev; Richard Lacayo (2005). "All-Time 150 Novels: The Complete List". Time. 
  6. ^ a b "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000". American Library Association. Retrieved on 2007-01-21. 
  7. ^ List of most commonly challenged books from the list of the one hundred most important books of the 20th century by Radcliffe Publishing Course
  8. ^ Jeff Guinn (2001-08-10). "'Catcher in the Rye' still influences 50 years later" (fee required). Erie Times-News. Retrieved on 2007-12-18.  Alternate URL
  9. ^ Bruce Brooks (2004-05-01). "Holden at sixteen". Horn Book Magazine. Retrieved on 2007-12-19. 
  10. ^ Louis Menand (2001-09-27). "Holden at fifty". The New Yorker. 
  11. ^ Carl F. Strauch (Winter 1961). "Kings in the Back Row: Meaning through Structure. A Reading of Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye". Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 2 (1): 5–30. doi:10.2307/1207365. Retrieved on 2007-12-22. 
  12. ^ Margaret Dumais Svogun (Winter 2003). "Salinger's THE CATCHER IN THE RYE". Explicator 2 (2): pp. 110-113. Retrieved on 2008-02-26. 
  13. ^ Yasuhiro Takeuchi (Fall 2002). "The Burning Carousel and the Carnivalesque: Subversion and Transcendence at the Close of The Catcher in the Rye". Studies in the Novel 34 (3): pp. 320-337. Retrieved on 2008-02-26. 
  14. ^ James Stern (1951-07-15). "Aw, the World's a Crumby Place". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-03-18. 
  15. ^ Nash K. Burger (1951-07-16). "Books of The Times". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2009-03-18. 
  16. ^ Fernando Dutra ., was fired for assigning "Catcher in the Rye." After appealing, the teacher was reinstated, but the book was removed from the itinerary in the school.. "U. Connecticut: Banned Book Week celebrates freedom". 
  17. ^ a b "In Cold Fear: 'The Catcher in the Rye', Censorship, Controversies and Postwar American Character. (Book Review)". Modern Language Review. 2003-04-01. Retrieved on 2007-12-19. 
  18. ^ Sylvia Andrychuk (2004-02-17). "A History of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye" (PDF). 6. Retrieved on 2007-12-19. "During 1981, The Catcher in the Rye had the unusual distinction of being the most frequently censored book in the United States, and, at the same time, the second-most frequently taught novel in American public schools." 
  19. ^ "The Most Frequently Challenged Books of 2006". American Library Association. Retrieved on 2007-12-19. 
  20. ^ "Art or trash? It makes for endless, debate that cant be won". The Topeka Capital-Journal. 1997-10-06. Retrieved on 2007-12-20. "Another perennial target, J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye," was challenged in Maine because of the "f" word." 
  21. ^ a b c Seth Mydans (1989-09-03). "In a Small Town, a Battle Over a Book". The New York Times: pp. 2. Retrieved on 2007-12-20. 
  22. ^ Ben MacIntyre (2005-09-24). "The American banned list reveals a society with serious hang-ups". The Times.,,923-1792974,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-12-20. 
  23. ^ a b Helen Frangedis (November 1988). "Dealing with the Controversial Elements in The Catcher in the Rye". The English Journal 77 (7): 72–75. doi:10.2307/818945. Retrieved on 2007-12-22. "The foremost allegation made against Catcher is... that it teaches loose moral codes; that it glorifies... drinking, smoking, lying, promiscuity, and more.". 
  24. ^ Anna Quindlen (1993-04-07). "Public & Private; The Breast Ban". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-12-20. ""The Catcher in the Rye" is perennially banned because Holden Caulfield is said to be an unsuitable role model." 
  25. ^ Yilu Zhao (2003-08-31). "Banned, But Not Forgotten". The New York Times. Retrieved on 2007-12-20. "The Catcher in the Rye, interpreted by some as encouraging rebellion against authority..." 
  26. ^ a b Stephen J. Whitfield (December 1997). "Cherished and Cursed: Toward a Social History of The Catcher in the Rye". The New England Quarterly 70 (4): 567–600. doi:10.2307/366646. 
  27. ^ Linton Weeks (2000-09-10). "Telling on Dad". Amarillo Globe-News. Retrieved on 2009-01-13. 
  28. ^ Aidan Doyle (2003-12-15). "When books kill". 2. Retrieved on 2007-05-21. 
  29. ^ Hamilton, Ian (1988). In Search of J. D. Salinger. New York: Random House. ISBN 0-394-53468-9.  p. 75.
  30. ^ a b Berg, A. Scott. Goldwyn: A Biography. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. ISBN 1-57322-723-4. p. 446.
  31. ^ a b Maynard, Joyce (1998). At Home in the World. New York: Picador. pp. 93. ISBN 0-312-19556-7.  p. 93.
  32. ^ "News & Features". IFILM: The Internet Movie Guide. 2004. Archived from the original on 2004-09-06.,1699,5784,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-04-05. 
  33. ^ Crowe, Cameron, ed. Conversations with Wilder. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999. ISBN 0-375-40660-3. p. 299.
  34. ^ a b McAllister, David (2003-11-11). "Will Salinger sue?". The Guardian.,6109,1082699,00.html. Retrieved on 2007-04-12. 
  35. ^ "PAGE SIX; Inside Salinger's Own World". The New York Post.. 2003-12-04. Retrieved on 2007-01-18. 
  36. ^ Ones that got away, Books

[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

[edit] External links

Personal tools