1.1 J.D. Salinger and His Works
J.D. Salinger is a contemporary American novelist who rose to prominence with the publication of his sole full-length novel The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. Born in New York City in 1919, Salinger spent his youth as an introverted boy. At the age of 13 he enrolled in a decent prep school in Manhattan but was expelled from it one year later due to his poor academic performance. At age 15 he continued his study in Valley Forge Military Academy where he found it hard to adapt to the environment, and which later became the prototype of Pencey Prep in The Catcher in the Rye. Like the narrator of the novel Holden Caulfield, Salinger was the manager of the fencing team at the military academy. Later he attended Columbia University, where he excelled in a creative writing class. In 1940 Salinger published his maiden writing “The Young Folks” in the magazine Story, and thus came into contact for the first time with the theme that he contrived to express throughout his literary creation—the situation and sentiments of youth who feel stranded in the adult world. One of his short stories “Slight Rebellion off Manhattan” published in The New Yorker first brought on scene the name of Holden Caulfield. After the enormous success of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger continued to publish a series of literary works, such as “Nine Stories”, “Fanney and Zooey”, and “Raise High the RoffBeam, Carpenters; and Seymour, An Introduction”. However, they did not reach the culmination in the literary world as The Catcher in the Rye did. In his later years Salinger gradually drifted away from the literary circle with scanty publications. To this day perhaps only his hallmark novel The Catcher in the Rye still remains vivid and alive to readers’ mind.(李宜燮,常耀信 562-63)
1.2 Synopsis of the Novel
The Catcher in the Rye is generally regarded as a semi-autobiography of Salinger, for the author weaves many of his personal experiences as a youth into the story. The book established the formula for young adult novels.(Silvey 52: 45) The protagonist, a 16-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield, is expelled from school due to his failure in classes, and leaves for New York City before returning home when his parents will be notified of his expulsion. During his two days’ adventure in that fashionable city, Holden is confronted with his own perplexed relationship with the adult world which comes to challenge his precarious childhood innocence. At the hotel he checks in the night he arrives at the city, Holden is swindled by a prostitute and beaten up by an elevator operator for claim of five dollars. At mid-night the next day he gets drunk at a bar and puts his head in cold water when being seized by a fit of extreme depression. Overwhelmed by frustration, he wanders to Central Park, where, with no one to be found around, he is seized by the thought of dying from pneumonia. During his stay at Mr. Antolini’s home, he is frightened by his respectable teacher’s intimate gesture toward him and makes a rash leave which he later regrets. When he goes to visit his sister Phoebe at school, he is shocked to see some dirty words scratched on the wall of the school building, afraid to imagine what would come to his sister’s mind if she sees them. Throughout his stay in New York City, the only moment when Holden feels “nice and peaceful” is to be in the Museum of Natural History, in which he is shut off from contact of the adult world. Having vented out his cynicism against his environment, he makes a decision to spend the rest of his life in the wilderness, being a deaf mute in order to protect himself from the pain and disappointment of growth weighing on him. Finally, it is the profound affection he finds in his sister Phoebe that releases him from his cynical and alienated mental armor.
1.3 The Inner Child Concept Related to the Novel