Monday, February 8, 2010

49. The Catcher in the Rye

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. ISBN: 978-0-316-76917-4. Back Bay Books. First Back Bay paperback, 2001.

Plot Summary
Holden Caulfield is a teenager who has been thrown out of every prep school he has attended. After getting kicked out of his most recent school for failing all of his classes, with the exception of English, he decides to spend a couple of days in New York City to clear his head before his parents find out about his expulsion. Holden has a dark outlook on life and the world stemming from the death of his brother Allie. He sees everyone as a big superficial phony and has trouble relating to anything. He spends his three days in the city drinking, meeting people he has little interest in, and spending money with no satisfaction.

Critical Evaluation

J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is brilliant in that it gives readers insight into the teenage mind. Upon reading the novel, you might think that there is no way that a teenager like Holden Caulfield could be thinking those thoughts or feeling those emotions, but the truth is that many youth are depressed, have little or no interests, and can relate to a story like this. Although this may have not have been the novels original intention, it is definitely the reason why it has had such a lasting impression on those that read it. Teenagers like Holden might need help talking about the issues that bother them, like the death of a family member, but might not know how to ask for that help. If anything, this novel lets people know that they are not alone in feeling lousy or that the world is full of superficial phonies. Readers discover that there are other people out there who feel like running away would solve all their problems.

As readers follow Holden on a three day journey through his adolescence endeavors, they learn about the mistakes that he makes and the problems that he has fails to solve. He is young and figuring out his life, like we all were at some point. Not everyone figures lifes out, and Holden is certainly a long ways from doing so, but his pursuit is real. There isn't a happy end to his story at the end of this novel. Holden is still finding himself, learning to deal with his problems, and searching for meaning and purpose. This novel speaks to the younger generation because it deals with the internal problems of adolescence in a way that is painfully honest. Despite the continued controversy over the depiction of foul language, adolescent drinking, and sexuality, The Catcher in the Rye has earned the right to be considered one of the greatest works of fiction for young adults.

Reader's Annotation
Holden Caulfield has just dropped out of another preparatory High School. His lack of enthusiasm for life has led him on a journey to New York city where he hopes to distract himself with booze, women, and dancing, before his parents find out about his expulsion.

Author Information
J.D. Salinger is considered to be one of the most important American writers since WWII. Despising the fame that came from writing his classic work The Catcher in the Rye ,he spent the last 50 years of his life living in seclusion until he death in 2010. The New York times has a great article about his life and legacy that can be found at:

realistic fiction, problem novel

Curriculum ties
English, depression

Book Talking Ideas
Discuss themes of depression and loneliness.
Tell story about the death of Holden's brother, and how that would make readers feel.

Reading Level/Interest Age
Grades 9+

Challenge Issues
language, adolescent drinking, sex, prostitution, violence

Challenge defense ideas:

1. Make sure you are familiar with your library collection and the book in question.
2. Be familiar with your library collection policy.
3. If possible, speak with the person challenging the material and make sure they feel comfortable. Ask the customer what they disliked or disapproved of in the resource. If they still insist on challenging the material give them instructions on how to file a formal complaint.
4. Research professional reviews that speak to the material's merit, and get input from teen readers on why they found the book important.

Reason For Selection

After reading about how Catcher in the Rye shaped young adult literature, and actually having never read it, I knew that it was a must have for this blog. I have always heard about Holden Caulfield, and now I feel like I know him personally

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