Classic Friday #4: J.D Salinger

22 Mar


Classic Friday

Welcome to Classic Friday with Nisha Moodley, your monthly journey into Classic authors and their Literature!

Nisha MoodleyNisha is a South African writer, blogger, amateur historian, mystery-chaser and former ghost-hunter who, with a completed collection of short-stories under her belt, is currently working on her first full-length novel.

I hope you enjoy this ‘Classic Friday’ entry and I’ll be back next month for some more.






NO. OF PAGES: 192 (My copy: Penguin Books)

Catcher in the RyeLove it or hate it, it’s the coming-of-age novel that has its place in American literature as one of the greatest. The name Holden Caulfield has become synonymous with the image of the rebellious teenager- pioneering a new kind of hero for non-conformists. The book caused a sensation when it was first released to the public, and even today it is still banned in a few schools in the USA.

 So what makes Catcher In The Rye the controversial classic that it is?

 Brief Synopsis

17-year-old Holden has just been expelled from school. For the third time.

 It’s just before the Christmas Holidays and instead of waiting for what’s left of the semester he leaves his boarding school prematurely. Holden’s too afraid to go back home to face the wrath of his parents however, so he heads off to New York City. The entire novel chronicles the adventures and the people he encounters over the next three days whilst at the same time giving us a glimpse of Holden’s life and his thoughts on school, sex, people and death. His disillusionment with the world and the people in it leaves him depressed and isolated. Despite the help and advice he gets from the people he loves and admires (including his wonderful 10- year-old sister Phoebe), Holden struggles with his sense of identity and his place in the world which eventually leads him in a downward spiral.


Catcher in The Rye is written in the 1st person perspective told from Holden’s own point of view. The controversy surrounding the book has to be viewed from the time in which the book was written.

 Salinger started writing the novel in the early 1940’s. The Second World War and its aftermath brought about certain attitudes in American society with regards to family, career and life in general. These attitudes fashioned certain societal ideals that were not entirely different to how it is today. Our protagonist blatantly challenges these ideals by pointing out the ‘phoniness’ in people and in society in general:

 “Pencey Prep is this school that’s in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. You’ve probably seen the ads…they advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hot-shot guy on a horsejumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time. I never even once saw a horse anywhere near the place. And underneath…it always says ‘Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men.’ They don’t do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school. I didn’t know anybody there that was splendid and clear-thinking. Maybe two guys…and they probably came to Pencey that way.”

Salinger also uses Holden Caulfield to voice his own anti-war feelings which, given the Allies’ victory in the Second World War, must have come as a shock to the American readers who revelled in their pride and patriotism.

 The subtle vulgarity (well, subtle to us modern readers anyway) also seemed to ruffle a few feathers which made Catcher In The Rye quite a notorious little novel, notorious enough to be considered a negative influence, even resulting in a few English teachers losing their jobs for teaching it in their classrooms.

 From a literary perspective, the novel has its merits.

 The distinctive stream-of-consciousness narrative beautifully betrays the stages of Holden’s psychology throughout the book- from self-righteous defiance to feelings of despair and complete hopelessness; we see our hero’s faults and his deeper sorrows without him having to mention them explicitly. First-person perspectives are considered bias in nature because we see things from one person’s point of view only. But this is where I feel the beauty of this novel lies. Naturally we trust our narrator and Salinger, in the beginning, makes us trust Holden but as we progress through the story, on our own we slowly begin to see the cracks in Holden’s thinking and begin to see the bigger picture of what is really happening.

 Is this book for you? If thoughts and memories of your former schooldays bring you nothing but dread, then this book is a must-read. Despite being written over 60 years ago, it is still very relatable and relevant but a word of warning: this is not your typical ‘classic’ book. Firstly it lacks a plot, and secondly the narrative is very informal and colloquialism is employed freely. So those bibliophiles who are sticklers for good English might cringe at repetitive phrases like “and all” at the end of sentences as well as inane similes like “pretty as hell.”

 However, saying this, this colloquialism is probably what gives Catcher In The Rye its unique trademark, the true voice of a rebellious teenager which many will relate to.

 Author Bio



Jerome David Salinger was born in New York City in 1919. His writing career began in high school when he served as a reporter for the local school paper. In 1934, he enrolled at a Military Academy in Pennsylvania, graduating two years later. After enrolling for a writing course at Columbia University, Salinger had his first short story, The Young Folks, published in 1940. Another short story, Slight Rebellion Off Madison, which introduces the character Holden Caulfield for the first time and is said to be the prequel to Catcher In The Rye, was published in the New Yorker in 1941.

 In 1942, in the midst of WW2, Salinger was drafted into the Army as an interrogator. He continued to write however, whilst in the Army, and had many short stories published in the prestigious New Yorker.

 Apart from Catcher In The Rye, his other notable works include Franny and Zooey(1961) and Raise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1961).

 Salinger passed away in 2010 in Cornish, New Hampshire at the age of 91.


13 Responses to “Classic Friday #4: J.D Salinger”

  1. frenzyofflies March 22, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    Hi Nisha, thanks for a great article, as always! This just happens to be one of my desert-island books, and one that shaped my vision of the world in many, many ways. It’s an amazingly gripping and emotional read.
    Famous also because of the sad Lennon connection.
    His other works are equally brilliant, from Nine Stories to the Glass Family saga.
    Now, you’ve made me want to read them again… 😉

    • Nisha March 22, 2013 at 5:02 pm #

      One of your desert-island books? Wow, I know this book has made such a great impression on so many people. Despite his unstable character, Holden really does highlight the hypocrisy of society in such a refreshing way.
      I was incredibly shocked when I read about Mark Chapman, although I’m not sure how Catcher made him want to murder a living icon if, in fact, it did.
      Thank you for such a lovely comment Greg, and it’s always a pleasure 🙂

      • frenzyofflies March 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

        You’re welcome, Nisha 🙂

  2. Nisha March 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

    Reblogged this on NM's Writers bloq and commented:
    My book review for Catcher In The Rye…

  3. nelle March 22, 2013 at 7:08 pm #

    Another excellent post, Nisha.

    • Nisha March 24, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

      Thanks Nelle! 🙂

  4. beckyday6 March 23, 2013 at 4:54 pm #

    This is a great review/author piece as always Nisha! I’ve heard a lot about the book, it’s pretty unavoidable, lol but I think this is the first thing I’ve read that makes me curious to read it. I love it when you can get into the psychology of the character and what makes them tick, so this might be one for me. 🙂 I always love a bit of historical context too.

    • Nisha March 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

      Aww thank you, and I think you said it. It is one of those household names/titles that everybody’s heard of even if they haven’t read it.
      It’s a setbook for an English course I’m doing at the moment(which you’ll hear about soon 😉 ) so I was forced to read it. But I’m glad I did 🙂

      • beckyday6 March 24, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

        Ooooh your doing an English course?! How exciting. I look forward to hearing about it. Hey, sometimes required reading can be good, it has in my case. 🙂 Something that is pretty new to me because normally I hate it, lol.

  5. laurabesley March 25, 2013 at 5:18 am #

    It’s interesting how some books seem ‘timeless’. I remember reading To Kill A Mockingbird and thinking that, in some ways, it could’ve been written recently. A lot of the imagery, dialogue and subject matters still seemed relevant today. I would imagine that Catcher in the Rye will be similar in that respect. It’s definitely shot up my to-read list! 🙂

    • Nisha March 26, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      You’re so right Laura, I guess that’s why they’re ‘classics’ because they do stand the test of time. I also feel it says a lot about human nature as well.
      Thank you for commenting! 🙂

  6. ArtiPeep March 26, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    Dear all, Just wanted to let you know that even though I think what Nisha regularly produces for us via her feature is great, I don’t usually as part of ArtiPeeps protocol ‘like’ what I post out. The fact that I have liked an ArtiPeeps post is a mistake, and something I would not normally do. Unfortunately I can’t remove it. Someone near and dear to me signed in as me by accident. My apologies, and thanks for your understanding. Nicky

    • Nisha March 26, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      LOL, Nicky I’m just chuffed that whoever that person was, enjoyed it. 😀 (he he)

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