Essay, Research Paper: Catcher In The Rye

Literature: Catcher in The Rye

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A novel, which has gained literary recognition worldwide, scrutiny to the point
of censorship and has established a following among adolescents, The Catcher in
the Rye is in its entirety a unique connotation of the preservation of innocence
and the pursuit of compassion. With certain elegance the writer J.D. Salinger,
substantiates the growth and perils, which lie between childhood and adulthood.
Embellishing the differentiation between innocence and squalor in the grasps of
society. The bridge that lies between these contrasting themes are personified
through the novel’s protagonist, Holden Caul-field and his visualization of a
cliff, which depicts a dividing point between the evident beginning and end. The
connection, which binds this gap in reality, was made clear through a new found
compassion, consummating Holden’s place in society through the realization of
his surroundings from which he successfully crosses over. Focusing on the
rebellious and confused actuality of adolescents stuck between the innocence of
childhood and the corruptness of the adult world, this novel strikes a cord,
which most adolescents can relate. The essence of the story The Catcher in the
Rye follows the forty-eight hour escapade of sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield,
told through first person narration. After his expulsion from Pency, a
fashionable prep school, the lat-est in a long line of expulsions, Holden has a
few confrontations with his fellow students and leaves shortly after to return
to his hometown, New York City. In the heart of New York City, Holden spends the
following two days hiding out to rest before confronting his parents with the
news. During his adventures in the city he tries to renew some old
acquaintances, find his significance in the adult world, and come to grips with
the head-aches he has been having lately. Eventually, Holden sneaks home to
visit his sister Phoebe, because alone on the streets he feels as if he has no
where else to turn. Children are the only people with whom Holden can
communicate with throughout the novel, not because they can help him with his
growing pains but because they remind him of a simpler time (his inno-cence),
which he wishes he could return. The trials of the adult world wear down
Holden’s vision of a place in society, portraying innocence as a form of
retreat from a confusing world. On the subject of innocence and symbolism there
of, which is repre-sented through Holden’s thoughts and actions, S.N. Behrman
writes: “Holden’s difficulties affect his nervous system but never his
vision. It is the vision of an innocent. To the lifeline of this vision he
clings invinci-bly, as he does to a phonograph record he buys for Phoebe (till
it breaks) and a red hunting cap that is dear to him and that he finally gives
to Phoebe, and to Allie’s baseball glove.” Understanding Holden’s notion
of innocence and the role it plays throughout the novel helps to put in tune the
underlying message found in Holden’s description of the catcher in the rye.
“I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of
rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around--nobody big, I
mean- except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have
to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if
they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out
from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the
catcher in the rye and all.” (Pg. 173) The princi-ple of the catcher in the
rye is a means for Holden to devote his life to the protection of innocence. The
significance of the catcher image lies in three areas of thought as implied by
B. Ramachandra Rao: “First of all, it is a savior image, and shows us the
extent of Holden’s re-ligious idealism. Secondly, it crystallizes for us
Holden’s concept of good and evil; childhood is good, the only pure good, but
it is surrounded by perils, the cliff of adolescence over which the children
will plunge in the evil of adulthood unless stopped. But finally, the image is
based on a mis-understanding. The Burns poem goes ‘If a body meet a body’
not ‘if a body catch a body,’ and the fact that Phoebe is aware of this and
Holden is not, plus the manner in which these two words (‘catch’ and
‘meet’) are re-examined and re-interpreted by Holden at the end of the
novel, shows us in a powerful and deeply suggestive way the center of Holden’s
diffi-culty.” Holden’s view of life as it is and the way life should be is
based on a misunder-standing of man’s place in society. Having difficulty
coming to grips with this misunder-standing, Holden crosses a threshold. Later
he fatefully comes in contact with his sister once again, at the Central Park
carrousel in the final scene of the novel. At the sight of his sister he is
overcome by a love for all people when he sees how much his sister cares about
him. Domenic Bruni, incorporates this theme in his statement: “Holden has
accepted a new position–an undiscriminating love for all mankind. He even
expresses that he misses all the people who did wrong to him... He is not mature
enough to know what to do with this love, but he is mature enough to accept it.
In this world, realizing what is squalor and what is good, and loving it all is
the first step in achieving identity and humility: compassion is what Holden
learns.” The foretelling of the story ends abruptly but we learn that Holden
in the end goes out west and is seeking psychological treatment in California.
Through his recovery and the experiences of those two lonely days, he gains
compassion towards everyone, in-cluding himself. While his vision of the catcher
in the rye was a hope, a dream, and a job Holden realizes that such a dream is
impractical in the world. Although innocence is not lost in Holden’s case, it
is apparent that it was only passed by but by facing the world and loving it
indiscriminately, such compassion will fill his need for acceptance and place in
the world. Substantially giving Holden an admission into society and the
acceptance of the responsibilities of adulthood. J(erome) D(avid) Salinger, is
an American author, who controversially dared to cross the line of literary
standards. In his first and only novel The Catcher in the Rye, proved to be
Salinger’s most important and influential literary work, establishing him as a
leading author and cultural icon. As the popularity of his novel grew, Salinger
became increasingly reclusive and has incidentally avoided the public eye for
over thirty years. Under an apparent cloak of secrecy, the real story of
Salinger lies incomplete and myste-rious. Although much about his life is
uncertain, it is clear that Salinger was born on January 1 1919 in New York, New
York, the second child and only son of Sol and Miriam Salinger. Since much of
Salinger’s early days are clouded and unknown, the only link to his apparent
adolescence is through the statement that his “boyhood was very much the same
as that of the in the book [Holden].” Salinger attended public schools on
Manhattan’s upper West Side and during his high school years he transferred to
the pri-vate McBurney School, where he flunked out after one year. In 1934, his
father enrolled him at Valley Forge Military Academy, a private prep school in
Pennsylvania. After graduation in 1936, Salinger enrolled in a short-story
writing course at Columbia Univer-sity in New York and began publishing some of
his short stories. Salinger was inducted into the service in 1942, at the age of
twenty-three, the following year, he was transferred to the Counter-Intelligence
Corps and later joined the American Forth Division, he landed on Utah Beach five
hours after the initial assault on D-Day. After the war, Salin-ger began
publishing again and featured his stories in the Saturday Evening Post and
Collier’s. By 1951, Salinger has established his reputation exclusively in The
New Yorker and the popularity of his work was emerging among college students.
And so, he re-leased The Catcher in the Rye, after working on and off on it for
ten years. Although it was not an immediate hit it did give Salinger an
increasing critical praise and respect. Eventually, as critical acclaim grew,
the letters, autograph seekers, and interview-ers began hunting him down and so
he became annoyed and moved to Cornish, New Hampshire, where he has lived ever
since. While secluding himself from the rest of the world Salinger began work on
Nine Stories, which includes a number of published short stories and introduces
the Glass family, the central figures of his later works. Nine Sto-ries was
published in 1953, after which Salinger published four lengthy short stories
about the problems of the extremely bright and overly sensitive children of the
Glass family. The books in this short story collection include Franny and Zooey
(1961), and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction
(1963).

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