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The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
Report by Simon D. Mac Farlane
Jerome David Salinger, the American author, was born in New York City in January of 1919. As a kid he attended Manhattan public schools and later on a military academy. After Highschool he attended two different Colleges, yet did not graduate.
After early literary success (as early as 1940), Salinger live a bit more isolated from the public. He spent several years in the army, before he returned to New York in 1946. After several years of writing various literature, he finally wrote the novel which was to make him famous: "TheCatcher in the Rye"
Got married to Claire Douglas in 1955, and had two children with her. They got divorced again in 1967.
The Catcher in the Rye is about a boy who has troubles adapting to his surroundings. This boy is called Holden Caulfield, who is also at the same time the first person narrator.
The story begins with him telling about his last days at Pencey, which he has just flunked out of (had to leave because of bad grades). Pencey is already the third school he was kicked out of.
The story he tells, begins when he is still at Pencey (a boarding school, he lives there), a few day before the Christmas vacation is about to start. He decides to leave the school (run away at night) after he has an argument and a bit of a fight with his roommate (who is older and stronger than he) Stradlater. He takes the train in to New York City, where he is from, but doesn't go home, as he doesn't want to be there, when his parents first learn about him flunking (they will receive a letter from school, which Holden is waiting for to arrive, before he does). While he is waiting, before he feels safe to go home, he gets himself a room in a hotel in New York. All the time he finds (at least he thinks) that he is surrounded by weird people. At Pencey it was the boy from the room next door, Ackley, who kept bothering him, and then wherever he goes, he finds there are people he simply doesn't understand. Holden is not athletic, and doesn't get good grades in school, yet by following his chain of thought, one gets the impression that he is a fairly intelligent boy. He comes from a rather wealthy family, yet still suffers from the loss of his younger brother Allie, who died of leukaemia when he was eleven (Holden was thirteen at that stage). He has an older brother who moved to Hollywood, who he doesn’t talk too highly about, though he does not dislike him, and he also has a younger sister, Phoebe, who he loves dearly. The first night that he is back in New York, he takes up the offer of taking a prostitute. Yet when she comes he finds he is not in the mood and would rather talk than have sex, and so keeps his virginity. She is not very much into talking, and leaves soonafter he tell her he doesn't want sex (yet he still pays the arranged price of five dollars, just for wasting her time). The next morning he meets Sally Hayes, an old girl friend, takes her ice skating, and upon telling her he is fed up with the hypocrisy he feels all around, he asks her to run away with him. Unfortunately for him, she refuses. They fight, and he leaves her. After getting drunk, and paying a visit to Central Park, to remind him of old days, he decides to go home and sneak in so he can see his Sister Phoebe. Yet Phoebe is troubled by his negative attitude, and challenges him to name one thing he would like to be. He at first has problems thinking of anything at all, but what he finally comes up with, is that he would like to be the one catching (saving) the kids that are playing in the rye, and running towards a cliff, and don't even know it… The Catcher in the Rye. Which is what shows you that he longs to preserve innocence he wants to stop the kids before they…"grow up". Leaving his parent's apartment, he stays with Mr.Antonlini, his former English teacher, whose homosexual advances frighten Holden, and make him leave really fast.
"Confused and frightened and even Sickened by human behaviour," he decides to see Phoebe once more, before running away to the West. But suddenly filled with love for her and the world, he knows he cannot leave. After going home, Holden has a nervous breakdown, but recovers to tell in his own way his story of these two dramatic days and of the experiences and feelings that lie behind them. At the end we have the timeshift into the present, when he is sitting in a sanatorium, and telling his story.
Holden Caulfield: He is the first person narrator and the hero of this book. He's a lonely, compassionate and a very dreamy 16-year old boy, who lives in a world of his own. He is "plagued" by the phoniness of his moral environment.
Stradlater: Holden's roommate. A tall, sporty guy who seems to be very attractive for girls, yet he doesn't really care about other people too much (that is, because he seems to be too concerned about himself).
Ackley: A "phony" guy, "seasoned" with pimples and liked by nobody. He lives next door to Holden and comes over whenever Stradlater is not around (as he can't stand him). Through him we can see to a certain extent, what kind of a guy Holden is, for he is the only one that Ackley come to (> Holden doesn't ostracize him)
Phoebe: Holen's younger sister (6 yrs younger), who is very bright, and also attractive. Holden lik es her above anybody else and really longs to see her. She also likes Holden very much, but is very concerned about him, because of the trouble he gets himself into.
In this book, "The Catcher in the Rye" one can recognize parallels to various books such as "Huckleberry Finn" (it is said that Holden is a type of "modern Huck Finn") or "Crazy" (which is also about a boy at a boarding school who doesn't get good marks, and doesn't have a lot of friends), but there are also many parallels between the author and Holden (they both had a tough childhood, are intelligent yet fail at achieving good grades at school). Holden can be seen as a sort of a reflection of the author's life.
Holden isn't only a reflection of the author's life, but should teach us a little bit about life and make us think about life and how we treat others.
My Opinion of the Book
"The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger is an excellently written book, which is easy to read, and grabs one's attention nearly from right at the beginning. It is written in such a way, that one does indeed associate oneself with Holden, the main character.
- "The Catcher in the Rye", J.D. Salinger, 1951
- Dictionary to American Literature
- Internet: http/www.fundus.org
- Quote paper
- Simon D. MacFarlane (Author), 2000, Salinger, J. D. - The Catcher In The Rye, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/100365