Critical Analysis of JD Salingers Catcher in the R
yeEveryone struggles to find their place in society. Some follow the rules society has set for them exactly, while others have a hard time dealing with the transition from childhood to adulthood. The Catcher in the Rye was written post World War II, and magnifies some of the problems Americas youth was going through. Salinger uses everything from comedy and obscenity to violence and death to get his point across. J.D. Salingers The Catcher in The Rye exemplifies the struggles a forlorn and confused youth can go through when trying to survive in society and find purpose and acceptance as an adult.
J.D. Salinger was born in Manhattan in 1919, the son of a wealthy cheese importer. He grew up in a fashionable section of New York City, and spent his youth studying at various prep schools; after shuttling between several schools, his parents finally sent him to the Valley Forge Military Academy in 1934 (Phillips 3). After returning from World War II Salinger began to write. In many ways, the novel combines details of Salinger’s early life with the postwar world in which it was written. Holden’s story, published in 1951, is set amid the conservative activity of the early ’50s, a time when the American industrial economy made the nation prosperous, and old- fashioned social rules forced the younger generation to repress its sexuality, factors which affect Holden’s story. The book created a huge amount of debate due to the moral issues raised by the book and the context in which it is presented, (Lomazoff 1). Following the enormous reaction from the public to the novel’s first publication, he fled to a rural life in the hills of New Hampshire to evade public attention.
Holden Caulfield, a sixteen year-old boy recuperating in a rest home from a nervous breakdown, some time in 1950, narrates the Catcher in the Rye. Holden tells the story of his last day at a school called Pencey Prep, and of his succeeding psychological meltdown in New York City. Holden has been expelled from Pencey for academic failure, and after an unpleasant evening with his self-satisfied roommate Stradlater and their pimply next-door neighbor Ackley, he decides to leave Pencey for good and spend a few days alone in New York City before returning to his parents’ Manhattan apartment. In New York, he gives in to increasing feelings of loneliness and desperation brought on by the hypocrisy and ugliness of the adult world; he feels increasingly tormented by the memory of his younger brother Allie’s death, and his life is complicated by his growing sexuality. He wants to see his sister Phoebe and his old girlfriend Jane Gallagher, but instead he spends his time with Sally Hayes, a shallow socialite Holden’s age, and Carl Luce, a pretentious Columbia student Holden treats as a source of sexual knowledge (Phillips 2).
Increasingly lonely, Holden finally decides to sneak back to his parents’ apartment to talk to Phoebe. He borrows some money from her, and then goes to stay with his former English teacher, Mr. Antolini. When he believes Mr. Antolini to be making a homosexual advance toward him, Holden leaves his apartment, and spends the rest of the night on a bench in Grand Central Station. The next day Holden experiences the worst phase of his nervous breakdown. He wanders the streets, looking at children and talking to Allie. He tries to leave New York forever but when Phoebe insists on going with him he gives in, agreeing to go back home to protect his sister from the ugliness of the world. He takes her to the park, and watches her ride on the merry-go-round; he suddenly feels overwhelmed by an inexplicable, intense happiness. Holden concludes his story by refusing to talk about what happened after that, but he fills in the most important details: he went home, was sent to the rest home, and will attend a new school next year. He regrets telling his story to so many people; talking about it, he says, makes him miss everyone.
Setting is used by Salinger to symbolize Holdens feelings and struggle as he enters adulthood. Having the story take place in winter adds