Understanding The Catcher in the Rye: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Catcher in the Rye: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Catcher in the Rye: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding The Catcher in the Rye: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

This rich source of social, cultural, and historical documents and commentary will illuminate the reading of The Catcher in the Rye, a novel that has become an important rite of passage for many young adults. In addition to a literary analysis, this casebook acquaints students with the larger world in which Holden Caulfield moves: Hollywood films, Broadway plays, and jazz musicians. It also presents a detailed account of the censorship challenges to the novel, and provides primary documents on child development and psychology that illuminate Holden's contradictory behavior.

Excerpt

The Catcher in the Rye is unquestionably one of the most widely read, most influential, and most controversial novels in contemporary American literature. No other literary work seems better able to capture the pressures and tensions of prep school life, the confusions of late adolescence, the quest for a vaguely defined religious purity, or the contradictions that result when its protagonist too neatly divides the world into phonies, on one hand, and the pure in spirit, on the other. In this sense, Salinger's portrait of Holden Caulfield remains as compelling and as fresh today as it was when it first appeared in 1951. Successive generations of high school students have followed his adventures in Manhattan with fascination and often with large measures of empathy. For many, Holden is them, however much the essential details may differ. Why so? Because what Salinger has done is neither more nor less than to have invented a character, somebody we know (or think we know) down to the soles of his shoes: how his "voice" sounds; what he wears; what his "take" on the world is; and, perhaps most of all, what he thinks. In a word, this character breathes in the way that (usually) only live persons do.

At the same time, however, Holden Caulfield is a reflection of the sociocultural conditions of his age, one defined by post-World War II affluence and angst, by large movements toward conformity . . .

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