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The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye

Noraa Sivad, May 4, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye written by J.D. Salinger is a story with the primary theme of coming-of-age. Considered to be revolutionary at the time of publishing, the story continues to have an impact on American literature today. Its timeless characters, themes, symbols, and plot create a wonderful story and aide in the continuance of its use in classrooms and book clubs all around the world today.
The story follows a seventeen year old young man named Holden Caulfield after receiving notice of his expulsion from a prep school in Pennsylvania. Holden narrates the story in the first person which gives readers a detailed look at Holden’s experiences and feelings as he wanders around New York for a few days. Readers become aware that Holden is severely conflicted as he visits many people from his past such as Mr. Antolini. He also reconnects with his sister by sneaking into his own house just to talk which highlights a central motif of loneliness. However, the manner in which he acts, such as describing people, often come in direct opposition of each other, unless Holden is describing his sister Phoebe or dead brother Allie, he typically doesn’t have nice things to say.
Salinger uses specific literary elements to aide his story such as themes, symbols, and motifs, along with strong characters. The most evident theme is coming-of-age as Holden is frequently battling to overcome his childish ways that provide him a safe haven of comfort. He acquires these traits from items such as his red hunting hat and his siblings. “It was this red hunting hat, with one of those very, very long peaks”(17). Holden only ever puts on the hat in places of comfort for him like when he arrives back to his room. Both provide an escape for Holden when a difficult adult situation arises that he doesn’t want to deal with. Even questions that Holden asks of other characters take him back to childhood times, for instance when he asks the cab drivers about the ducks, “Well, you know the ducks that swim around in it? In the springtime and all? Do you know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance?”(81). He attempts escaping adult responsibility by mentally distracting himself. As his journey around New York continues several issues such as sexuality arise. The idea of sex is repeated several times in the story as it is seen as an adult act, Holden has a difficult time dealing with the responsibility and taking the steps to perform sexual acts. When presented with a prostitute that he paid for he immediately snaps into child mode in order to protect his innocence and eliminate fear. “The trouble was, I just didn’t want to do it. I felt more depressed than sexy, if you want to know the truth. She was depressing.”(96). This trait of Holden’s to back out of difficult situations is not just true for issues of sex but everything difficult that is presented Holden tries to avoid by becoming a child he can no longer be. Holden is so unique because of his constant indecisiveness and could even be considered hypocritical as he calls the majority of the characters “phonies” but in reality he displays phony characteristics with his two sides of behavior.
Salinger truly creates a classic because simply reading the story requires so much active thinking and analysis. It creates countless ideas about human nature and what people will do in order to be comfortable. It covers a broad range of issues that have stood the test of time and are still relevant today. This is what has allowed the story to remain popular and continue to be read. Specifically the idea of phoniness and people’s over exaggerated and superficial behavior is a trait that will always be evident. Personally I see the types of events and people displayed in The Catcher in the Rye frequently. Also the way Salinger tells the story makes it easier to understand because it is so conversational and done by a narrator that is so easily identifiable with.
Salinger created a great story with The Catcher in the Rye which will remain popular for years to come. The literary elements and strong narrator create a concrete story that is able to adapt to changing times.
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