The Catcher in the Rye



J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye actually had its beginning as a short story—it was only later that Salinger decided to widen his scope and explore his own life; seeing through the outlook of Holden Caulfield.

The Catcher in the Rye is an extremely autobiographical tale. Published in 1951 by Little, Brown and Company, it describes the life of a young man named Holden Caulfield, freshly expelled from yet another school, and hopelessly adrift in a world that does not look kindly on the absent-minded. It might have easily been about a man named Jerome David Salinger. But Salinger was not interested in simply describing his own childhood. He had a vision.

Of course, like Holden, Salinger had grown up in New York, and similar to Holden’s older brother, D. B., he had served been of service during the war. Like Holden, his parents were of mixed faiths. (Unlike Holden, it was his mother who was Catholic, not his father. Salinger’s father was Jewish). The conflict between faiths obviously had an impact on Salinger—as it did on Holden. Salinger would spend most of his adult life trying to find something to believe in. Holden, while admitting to a kind of atheism, has a better sense of Jesus than most Christians.

Holden’s first appearance was in 1941, in a work by Salinger called “Slight Rebellion off Madison.” However, Pearl Harbor was bombed that same year and The New Yorker did not get around to publishing Salinger’s story till the war had ended. Holden Caulfield’s debut had a five-year delay. It would be another five years before his whole story was told.

That whole story was, essentially, Salinger’s story. It would also serve to be a story to which millions of people around the world could relate. Yet, as Holden became a symbol of disaffected youth desperately trying to hold onto something good, Salinger himself was aging and desperately trying to find something worth holding onto. As one relationship crumbled after another, Salinger sought to find...

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