The writer of ‘Catcher in the Rye’ (1951), Jerome David Salinger was born in New York on 1 January, 1919. During the 40’s he published about 20 stories that he has not allowed to be collected. Salinger has said in an interview that he is still writing constantly, but considers publication as a ‘terrible invasion’ of his privacy.
Despite his limited quantity of work, Salinger has been an extremely popular American fiction writer among serious young persons and many adults.
There is a parallel novel by Mark Twain ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Like Holden, Huck Finn is a noble, innocent child who rebels against the values of the adult-society in which he lives. Both stories include a lot of humor combined with a serious theme. Both boys try to run away from a world they cannot adapt to.
Since 1953 Salinger has been living in New Hampshire in a place which resembles Holden’s dream of ‘a little cabin … near the woods, but not right in them.’
’Holden Caulfield, the main character of “The Catcher in The Rye ‘ (1951) by J.D. Salinger, is a New York boy of seventeen (‘ well, almost seventeen’) who is sent home from boarding school because he ‘does not apply himself’. He dare not to tell his parents and because he just got a nice amount of pocket money from his grandmother he could afford to roam around New York for a few days and stay in hotels during the nights. The book is one of the most famous of the last century; it is beautifully and almost perfectly written and millions have read it with great pleasure.
In a deeper way the Catcher is a plea for ‘The Genuine’. During his wanderings Holden meets all kind of people who, each in their own way, have denied ‘The Genuine’ and became ‘ phoney ‘; fellow students who watch a stupid football game; a pianist who has been trapped into virtuosity and the audience that applauds it; pastors who are no longer able to talk in a normal way; his brother, who once wrote such beautiful stories now lowers himself to the Hollywood filmmaking industry. Holden has a vision in which he stands in a corn field, on the edge of a ravine.
Holden’s vision arises from seeing a little boy who is walking down the street with his parents; ‘poor people, the father has such a hat on that poor figures often have when they want to look at their Sunday. ‘ The little boy walks in the gutter next to the sidewalk and is singing a song, Holden moves closer to hear what he is singing: ‘ … if a body catch a body coming through the rye … ‘.
That is what makes the title so beautiful: the message is in it (save the childish, the Genuine), and at the same time the originality of Holden. Who else would move closer to such a boy to hear what he is singing.
Although he is a bit lonely, and finds it difficult to express his love, Holden Caulfield is not a sad person himself – the world he perceives is sad in the best sense of the word. That is what principally makes ‘ The Catcher in The Rye ‘ such a beautiful book.