The Catcher in the Rye

Front Cover
J. D. Salinger wrote one of the most famous books ever written, The Catcher in the Rye. Salinger wrote many stories and, in 1941, after several rejections, Salinger finally cracked The New Yorker, with a story, "Slight Rebellion Off Madison," that was an early sketch of what became a scene in "The Catcher in the Rye". The magazine then had second thoughts in part because of World War II in which Salinger was in combat, and held the story for five years before finally publishing it in 1946, buried in the back of an issue. Everyone was surprised when the story and the book that followed it became a bit hit. Even today nobody can really explain why Catcher in the Rye is so famous and so popular. Yet, millions have been sold and are still being sold even though only available as used books nowadays. When The Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951, it was registered for copyright as "additional material". This obviously referred to the earlier work "Slight Rebellion Off Madison". The copyright page on "The Catcher in the Rye" states "Copyright 1945, 1946, 1951 by J. D Salinger". The date of 1945 obviously refers to the publication of "I'm Crazy", a short story written by Salinger and published in the December 22, 1945 issue of Collier's magazine that first introduced the character Holden Caulfield to the reading public. Salinger later reworked this short story to incorporate it into The Catcher in the Rye. The two earlier stories are "I'm Crazy", an early version of Holden's departure from prep school that later shows up in The Catcher in the Rye. With minor alteration, much of this story is familiar to readers as the chapter where Holden visits Mr. Spencer. What sets this story apart is the presence of an additional Caulfield sister and the clarity of Holden's resignation and compromise at the end. "Slight Rebellion off Madison" is an early version of another scene in The Catcher in the Rye. The story follows Holden when he is home from Pency and goes to the movies, then skating with Sally Hayes, followed by his drunken calls to her apartment late at night. An early story, it is the first of Salinger's Caulfied works to be accepted for publication.

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This is a sarcastic and humorous tale of Holden, a young man who is relaying the events of the past three days since he left school for winter break. I adore this story mainly because of Holden, who cherishes innocence in the form of his younger sister and has a witty but pessimistic outlook on things. The motifs and symbolism within it only strengthened the story and the extremely relatable protagonist. 

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This story thoroughly and very realistically portrays the complexities and frustrations of a seemingly odd teenager who many often alienated individuals may be able to relate to.
This book was
proof to me that I wasn’t alone in the world. High school and adolescence can be so challenging just because we are so conscious of standards and conformity while simultaneously trying to find out who we are. One thing I found myself relating to is Holden’s confusion in not finding satisfaction in many of the things he is “supposed” to find enjoyable as a teenager. At one point he tells Phoebe in response to “What’s something you like”, that sitting here, being with her is something he likes, to which she thinks doesn’t count. That was a moment for me that was like Yes! That’s exactly how I feel! I really felt in that moment that someone had understood my confusion with why for me, often the simple, quiet times are more meaningful to me than the excitement that people around me seem to crave. Holden seemed to speak to me and say, “Hey, you’re not alone, I feel that way too.” 

About the author (2013)

J. D. Salinger was born in New York City on January 1, 1919. He attended Manhattan public schools, Valley Forge Military Academy in Pennsylvania, and three colleges, but received no degrees. He was from an upper class Jewish family and they lived on the upper west side of Manhattan on Park Avenue. Salinger joined the U. S. Army in 1942 and fought in the D-Day invasion at Normandy as well as the Battle of the Bulge, but suffered a nervous breakdown due to all he had seen and experienced in the war and checked himself into an Army hospital in Germany in 1945. In December 1945, his short story I'm Crazy was published in Collier's. In 1947, his short story A Perfect Day for Bananafish was published in The New Yorker. Throughout his lifetime, he wrote more than 30 short stories and a handful of novellas, which were published in magazines and later collected in works such as Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. The Catcher in the Rye, published in 1951, was his only novel. His last published story, Hapworth 16, 1924, appeared in 1965. He spent the remainder of his years in seclusion and silence in a home in Cornish, New Hampshire. He died of natural causes on January 27, 2010 at the age of 91. Salinger always wanted to write the great American novel; when he succeeded in this with Catcher in the Rye, he was unprepared for the onslaught on privacy issues that this popularity brought on. He never wanted to be in the spotlight and retreated from all contacts he had in New York City.

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