The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye has been honored by being included in lists of the top 100 Novels of all time by several different organizations including TIME Magazine, Modern Library, and the BBC. More than 60 years after its publication the book still sells more than 1 million copies annually. Originally the novel was written for an adult audience, but beginning in the 1960s and since it has been popular with young readers. It is often taught in high schools.
The book tells a story through the eyes and voice of its protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Holden is traumatized from the recent death of his brother and more recent expulsion from an exclusive New York prep school. After being told that he is not to return following Christmas break, Holden leaves the school early and spends time in New York, where his parents and sister live, but he contacts only his sister. Holden encounters prostitutes and their pimps, tries to pick up adult women, meets former classmates and a former teacher, visits his sister Phoebe and has other adventures. He is particularly interested in the fate of the ducks in Central Park when the ponds freeze over during the winter.
Holden has been described as caught between being a teenager, which he is, and an adult because of his ability to think like and understand adult reasoning. The book was written in a style which allowed Holden to relate events and add his commentary using the extant teenage slang and attitudes. At the same time the author, J.D. Salinger presented an accurate and entertaining view of the New York City of the early 1950s through the eyes of his narrator. These attributes drew considerable praise from critics upon its release, and it continues to earn critical praise today.
From 1960 to 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in the United States in both libraries and schools. At the same time, it lead the nation in being censored, in 1981 it was taught in schools so extensively that it ranked second in books used for English curricula in the country. The censorship of the book began in 1960; a teacher in Washington assigned the book in class and the complaints of parents led to his firing. The book continued to be challenged and removed from library shelves throughout the decade of the 1990s. In the 21st century, the challenges to the book continue.
Most of the challenges are based on the book’s profanity, although it appears relatively mild to modern ears. Sexual innuendo and the approach of the young Holden to adult women are also challenged often, as is the implied homosexual encounter with a former teacher when Holden attempts to spend the night at his apartment, having run out of options over where to stay. Others have complained that the book encourages children to leave home on there, glamorizing Holden’s brief stay in New York. Surprisingly given the book’s popularity and continuing controversy, it has never been made into a film.