July 16, 1951
July 16, 1951
Anyone who has read J. D. Salinger's New Yorker stories - particularly A Perfect Day for Bananafish, Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut, The Laughing Man, and For Esme - With Love and Squalor, will not be surprised by the fact that his first novel is full of children. The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
J. D. Salinger's famous and enduring chronicle of Holden Caulfield's journey from innocence to experience is the quintessential coming-of-age novel--though it's an unusual one, in which the hero tries to cling to the simplicity of childhood, achieving a kind of maturity almost in spite of himself. As the novel begins, Holden runs away from his stifling prep school, which is full of "phonies" and where he has, in fact, flunked out. Holing up in a New York City hotel, he has a series of small adventures and missed opportunities, all of which emphasize his loneliness and alienation from the world. A visit to his kid sister Phoebe (in which he memorably articulates his confused notion of being a "catcher in the rye") provides a ray of hope for Holden, as do the ducks in Central Park that he worries about so compulsively: though they do indeed disappear in the winter, they return in the spring. The novel's final image, of Phoebe riding the carousel in the park while her brother looks on, in tears, holds out the idea that there may be a future for Holden as well. Salinger's 1951 novel was a bestseller and became an immediate cult favorite, but it has also, over the years, been subject to criticism and even censorship because of its liberal use of profanity, its frank conversations about sex (though no actual sex takes place), and its generally irreverent view of the adult world.
- Genre: Fiction + Literature Genres, Fiction + Literature Themes
- Subgenre: Stages of Life, Human Qualities + Behavior, Holidays, Family + Friendship, General, Education, Classics, Conflicts + Dualities, Literary Genres + Types of Novels
- Language: English
- Author: J. D. Salinger
- Online Item #: 11999893
- Store Item Number (DPCI): 247-03-3897
- ISBN: 9780316769532
- Item can be gift wrapped.
- Made in the USA or Imported