Catcher in the Rye Essay: Themes of Society and Growing Up

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Themes of Society and Growing Up in The Catcher in the Rye


In reading J.D. Salinger's novel, The Catcher in the Rye, one is compelled to have a very strong reaction to the contents of the book. Whether that reaction is negative or positive, it is unquestionable that the reader will give the novel a second thought after reading it. There could be many reasons why this novel has such an impact on the readers. It may be the use of Salinger's catchy slang phrases, bitingly sarcastic and usually negative, grabbing the attention of the reader. Another possibility is Holden, the novel's subject and lead character. "He describes everything as 'phony', is constantly in search of sincerity, and represents the first hero of adolescent
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It is a widespread belief that much of Holden Caulfield's candid outlook on life reflects issues relevant to the youth of today (Davis 317-18). Before his novel, J.D. Salinger was of basic non-literary status, having written for years without notice from critics or the general public. The Catcher in the Rye was his first step onto the literary playing field. This initial status left Salinger, as a serious writer, almost unique as a sort of free agent, not bound to one or more schools of critics, like many of his contemporaries were. This ability to write freely, his status as a nobody in the literary world, was Salinger's greatest asset. Rather than to scope inside Salinger's mind and create a greatness for him, we are content instead to note him for what he is: "a beautifully deft, professional performer who gives us a chance to catch quick, half-amused, half-frightened glimpses of ourselves and our contemporaries, as he confronts us with his brilliant mirror images" (Stevenson 217).

Novels about teenagers rarely capture the melodrama of growing up and having those feelings of unworthiness and uselessness as this one did. Aside from all of thse clichéd growing pains that teens enjoy sympathizing with, however, there is still that side of Holden's character that is not quite optimistic but hinting of a softer side of him. This mannerism is in…