Vera Panova


ON J. D. SALINGER'S
NOVEL

The Catcher in the Rye reaches the reader's heart in extremely subtle, secret ways. Why should the confused wanderings of ill-fated, infantile Holden Caulfield so concern us? No extreme David Copperfield calamities have befallen him. He does not wander on the highways of the American West like John Steinbeck's heroes, but in New York where his parents, sister, aunt, "and all my crummy relatives" and his numerous friends live. He does not ride the rails—he hires taxis. Holden Caulfield has never had to worry about a piece of bread. He is from a solid intelligentsi family, he studies in the most respectable educational institutions in the United States.Four times a year his ancient grandmother sends him money "for his birthday." And by a number of signs we gather that Holden is handsome, which of course is not unimportant for happiness, especially at sixteen. In a word, he is a rich man's kid, a loafer, and it would not seem that the reader has any reason to worry about him.

Besides, Holden has so many traits and does so many things which the reader simply cannot approve of. Holden tells his own story—and what language, replete with slang expressions and swear words! Holden has no respect for anything—not his school, or the teachers, or his studies, or his nation's history. "This crazy cannon that was in the Revolutionary War and all," he notes casually telling where he is during the football game. His infantile behavior makes an unpleasant impression: the scene in the washroom where Holden does a tap dance in front of the shaving Stradlater is so repulsive—we are used to sixteen-year-olds conducting themselves decently, and not making faces. Readers also become indignant because Holden is so stubborn about not wanting to study. Literature interests him; he reads a lot and writes excellent papers on literature. But when he has to write a paper on history, about ancient Egypt, he writes a few disdainful, parodistic lines. He does not know anything about ancient Egypt and does not want to. That does not interest him.

____________________
From Soviet Criticism of American Literature in the Sixties: An Anthology, edited by Carl R. Proffer ( Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, 1972), pp. 4-10. First published in Russian in 1960.

-58-

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Holden Caulfield
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Major Literary Characters *
  • Holden Caulfield *
  • Contents *
  • The Analysis of Character ix
  • Editor's Note xv
  • Introduction i
  • Critical Extracts 5
  • Critical Essays 41
  • The Language of the Catcher in the Rye 41
  • Huck Finn and Holden Caulfield: the Situation of the Hero 50
  • On J. D. Salinger's Novel 58
  • The Saint as a Young Man 64
  • Character and Detail in the Catcher in the Rye 74
  • Allie and Phoebe 80
  • The Catcher in the Rye 87
  • "Don't Ever Tell Anybody Anything" 105
  • Against Obscenity 114
  • In Memoriam: Allie Caulfield 132
  • Adlerian Theory and the Catcher in the Rye 144
  • Holden and the Cold War 153
  • Contributors 166
  • Bibliography 169
  • Acknowledgments 173
  • Index 177
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