Catcher In The Rye

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From the Outside, Looking In

Despite the debate that may wage on regarding the status to be afforded J. D. Salinger's writings, the author's books have not quietly faded into obscurity. Although published almost a half-century ago, the author's most famous work, Catcher in the Rye, enjoys almost as healthy and devoted a following today as the book did when it was first published. Because of a self-imposed exile that began almost at the same time the Salinger's career was just taking off, much of the substance of the writer's life—his thoughts, ideals, writing objectives—remain shrouded in mystery. The few writings Salinger did offer up for public consumption, though, provide his audience cryptic clues into his inner most thoughts and psyche. The predominant figures in the author's fiction are societal outcasts, struggling to understand and accept the values of the world in which they live. As a result of their conflict, Salinger's main characters, and particularly the main character of Catcher in the Rye—Holden Caulfield—come to bear such labels as "mentally disturbed," "insane rebels," or "trouble makers." It is society as a whole, and not Salinger's characters; however that is twisted for accepting the tortured, hypocritical notions that seem to dominate religion, education and politics.

Given the attention and notoriety that J. D. Salinger's books continue to receive up and until the present day, it is a wonder that the author has done little for over four decades to bring notice to himself or his literary works. Instead, Salinger has attempted to shield himself as well his literary motives by taking up an almost hermit-like existence. Despite his elaborate efforts to hide behind a shadowy, elusive persona, J. D. Sal...

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... example to others. Shunning public expectation, Salinger has lived his life according to his own terms. Like the author's catcher in the rye—that person who stands as a sentry on the edge of the field in order to insure the well-being of others—the writer has challenged us to reach beyond the comfort to be found in mindlessly adhering to societal norms. As a person reads the author's printed words, they can almost hear the centuries-old chant:

Gin a body meet a body

Comin thro' the rye,

Gin a body kiss a body,

Need a body cry?

Gin a body meet a body

Comin thro' the glen

Gin a body kiss a body,

Need the warld ken (Burns 252)?

Works Cited

Burns, Robert. The Complete Works of Robert Burns. Ed. William Earnest Henley and

Thomas F. Henderson. Cambridge, MA: Houghton, Muffin. 1987.

Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown. 1951.
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