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The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
THE CATCHER IN THE RYE, by J.D. Salinger
With THE CATCHER IN THE RYE (1951), J. D. Salinger brought to a wide audience one of the most memorable characters in American fiction: Holden Caulfield, 16 years old, disillusioned, cynical, prone to depression, indeed an outright failure by conventional standards. It's a week before Christmas and Holden has just been kicked out of his exclusive Pennsylvania prep school -- not the first academic institution to cut short his stay. He heads to New York City, his hometown; putting off the inevitable reckoning with his parents, Holden spends what money he has on the "vacation" of a young lifetime, two endlessly eventful days in a very self-conscious coming of age. Salinger not only draws an indelible portrait of the teenage psyche, he is responsible for helping re-create it: the popular image of the present-day American teen -- at least the intelligent and sensitive sort -- is deeply indebted to Holden Caulfield. The novel's depictions of underage drinking and sexual preoccupation along with its abundant profanity have made CATCHER IN THE RYE the target of censorship efforts for decades. But this is a novel whose spirit is far less offensive than it is offended. We come of age because we must, it acknowledges, but don't insist we act happy about it.

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The American Novel