J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye: A Routledge Study Guide (Routledge Guides to Literature)

J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye: A Routledge Study Guide (Routledge Guides to Literature)

Sarah Graham

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 0415344530

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye (1951) is a twentieth-century classic. Despite being one of the most frequently banned books in America, generations of readers have identified with the narrator, Holden Caulfield, an angry young man who articulates the confusion, cynicism and vulnerability of adolescence with humour and sincerity.

This guide to Salinger’s provocative novel offers:

  • an accessible introduction to the text and contexts of The Catcher in the Rye
  • a critical history, surveying the many interpretations of the text from publication to the present
  • a selection of new critical essays on the The Catcher in the Rye, by Sally Robinson, Renee R. Curry, Denis Jonnes, Livia Hekanaho and Clive Baldwin, providing a range of perspectives on the novel and extending the coverage of key critical approaches identified in the survey section
  • cross-references between sections of the guide, in order to suggest links between texts, contexts and criticism
  • suggestions for further reading.

Part of the Routledge Guides to Literature series, this volume is essential reading for all those beginning detailed study of The Catcher in the Rye and seeking not only a guide to the novel, but a way through the wealth of contextual and critical material that surrounds Salinger’s text.

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of ‘containment culture’ (the repression that characterised American society in the 1950s described in Texts and contexts, pp. 10–15) includes a chapter on Holden Caulfield. Nadel suggests that Holden ‘voices many of the domestic themes of containment and also demonstrates the impossibility of articulating those themes while speaking veracious [truthful] speech’.152 So Nadel’s reading of Catcher focuses on the ways in which Holden’s speech and images in the novel invoke aspects of Cold War

contexts, pp. 9–13). Medovoi notes the Ohmanns’ assertion that the novel is anti-capitalist in its critique of class inequality (see Critical history, pp. 51–3); he contends that critics avoided a class-based reading of the novel in the 1950s and 1960s because of the pressures of anti-Communism. Instead, critics addressed generational difference, interpreting the novel as a psychological narrative of growing up. However, youth has a symbolic meaning in America: the USA considers itself to be a

becomes a spokesperson, not for adolescent discontent or rebellion, but for a form of masculine protest that was itself fast becoming part of the post-war consensus. Some critics of Catcher have already pointed to the novel’s relationship to contemporaneous sociological discourses concerned with diagnosing the condition of the ‘American character’ at mid-century (Seelye, Brookeman, and Steinle, for example).1 However, the relevance of these discourses to the novel’s engagement with gender has

‘patting’, and Holden does not know which word to use. Salinger’s last published story of 1945 was ‘I’m Crazy’, narrated by Holden Caulfield. It begins with Holden visiting his teacher, Mr Spencer, the night he leaves ‘Pentey’ Prep and much of the scene survives into Catcher unchanged. Overall, however, it is less comic than in the novel: Holden pities Spencer more overtly, and his reflections on his own situation are less subtle (‘I wasn’t saying much that I wanted to say. I never do. I’m crazy.

Whitfield, ‘Cherished and Cursed: Toward a Social History of The Catcher in the Rye’, The New England Quarterly, 70, 1997, p. 568. Whitfield, ‘Cherished and Cursed’, p. 587. R E N É E R . C U R RY 81 States. Particularly significant in this process were challenges to white domination and exclusion [. . .] Implicit in this process was a challenge to the historical foundations of whiteness; that is, an attack on the legitimation of a white identity grounded in claims to white supremacy and the

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