Today is day two of Banned Books Week. This week, I’ll be featuring one banned book each day. Today’s book is The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger.
“The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”
J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was challenged due to sexual content and explicit language; it was not viewed as suitable for the age group it was aimed at reaching.
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 classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time‘s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.
Honestly, Holden Caulfield is an immensely unlikable narrator. Holden is a brooding, immature teenager, and this book is filled with teenage angst. The novel seems to be incredibly polarizing, with people either holding it up as one of the greatest American novels ever or wondering how on earth it ever became a classic. Either way, it’s certainly left its mark.
What are your thoughts on The Catcher in the Rye and on Holden Caulfield as a character? Discuss in the comments!