Study Sheet - Catcher in the Rye Reactions

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English Seminar – Summary/Fact Sheet March 15th, 2011

Tyler Colley

Critical Response to Catcher in the Rye

Initial Reaction

Initial reactions to the book were mixed, ranging from The New York Times’ hailing of Catcher as "an unusually brilliant first novel" to denigrations of the book's monotonous language and the "immorality and perversion" of Holden, who uses religious slurs and freely discusses casual sex and prostitution. The novel was a popular success; within two months of its publication, The Catcher in the Rye had been reprinted eight times. It spent thirty weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list.

Today

The Catcher in the Rye has been listed as one of the best novels of the 20th century. In June 2009, the BBC's Finlo Rohrer wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded "as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager. Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic." Adam Gopnik considers it one of the "three perfect books" in American literature, along with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby, and believes that "no book has ever captured a city better than Catcher in the Rye captured New York in the fifties."

Not all reception has been positive, however; the book has had its share of critics. Rohrer writes, "Many of these readers are disappointed that the novel fails to meet the expectations generated by the mystique it is shrouded in. J. D. Salinger has done his part to enhance this mystique. That is to say, he has done nothing." Rohrer assessed the reasons behind both the popularity and criticism of the book, saying that it "captures existential teenage angst" and has a "complex central character" and "accessible conversational style"; while at the same time some readers may dislike the "use of 1940s New York vernacular," "self-obsessed central character," and "too much whining."

Controversy

Between 1961 and 1982, The...
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