Jerome David Salinger

Essay by ahshobo2008High School, 11th grade March 2008

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Best known for his controversial novel The Catcher in the Rye written in 1951, Salinger has astounded critics and readers alike throughout America. One of the most popular and influential authors to appear after World War ΙΙ, Salinger brought to the table a whole new way of writing. Symbolism to where even the younger readers could understand. His thoughtful, sympathetic insight into the insecurities that plague both adolescents and adults was also another trait that he showed in his writing. Salinger was lauded as “an original and gifted writer, a marvelous entertainer, a man free of the slogans and clichés the rest of us fall prey to.” The Catcher in the Rye was such a popular book in the 50’s in honor of its sensitive, alienated sixteen-year-old protagonist they became known as “The Age of Holden Caulfield”. The book’s vast approval from all Salinger’s readers compelled them to read his next novels or short stories of Nine Stories (1953), Franny and Zooey (1955), and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters, and Seymour: An Introduction (1963).

Most of these stories are mainly focused on the Glass Family which consisted of “seven gifted siblings led by Seymour, their seer-artist and elder brother.

Salinger’s upbringing was not that unlike of his characters in The Catcher in the Rye or that of the Glass Family. Raised in Manhattan, the younger of two children of a prosperous Jewish importer and Scots-Irish mother. He was also expelled from several private preparatory schools before graduating from Valley Forge Military Academy in the spring of 1936.

“A Gatsby-like, modern version of Twain’s Huckleberry Finn.”Salinger entered military service in 1942 and served until the end of World War ΙΙ, participating in the storm on Normandy and the liberation of France. He continued to write throughout the war carrying a typewriter in the back of his jeep.

J.D. Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 in New York City. Salinger had a rough time getting along in public and prep school. As a last resort his father finally shipped Salinger to Valley Forge Academy in Pennsylvania after being expelled from various other prep schools. Valley Forge later on became known as Pensey Prep which is the setting for Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye. Before graduating Valley Forge in 1936, Salinger wrote the lyrics to the school anthem, a creation that gave little insight into his true literary talent.

After leaving Valley Forge, Salinger briefly attended New York University where he dropped out and became an entertainer on a ship. After that he returned to Europe with his father to learn the family cheese trade, but shortly after arriving they had to sail back home because of the threatening outbreak of war. He once again attended college, first at Ursinus College in Pennsylvania and then later at Columbia University in New York.

In 1948, Salinger’s first “Glass Family” story came out, “A perfect Day for Bananafish.” All of Salinger’s short stories from then on out would be base on the Glass Family, who were an upper-class American family whose children, like Holden Caulfield, are innocent little idealist in a cruel world. The stories also exhibited Salinger’s growing interest in foreign religions, mostly Zen Buddhism. The cornerstone of the Glass Family was Seymour, the eldest of the bunch and only appears in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” After spending a day walking on the beach with a young girl Seymour returned to his hotel room and lies down next to his napping wife and unexpectedly shoots himself.

“In 1951 what became Salinger’s most famous—and, in some circles, most notorious—work was published.” The Catcher in the Rye is a novel that tells about a few days in Holden Caulfield’s life, who was an idealist prep-school student who was about to flunk out of school and decides to visit his sister Phoebe before he heads west to live in a log cabin. Holden is a lonely idealist who has lost his younger brother. This death hit Holden very hard and hasn’t quiet acted the same ever since his death. He is also very disturbed about the “phony” adult world. Along the way to visit Phoebe (his sister) he encounters various occasions where he has been “phony” to fool the people around him. Eventually he envisions himself as a saver of children from the “PHONY” adult world, a Catcher in the Rye.

Other works form Salinger consist of Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, and others.

The Catcher in the Rye became increasingly well known throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s for a few reasons, one being the language and sexual content, and the other was it was one of the best “coming of age” books to come out post World War ΙΙ. The novel became very popular to a generation that later was known as “Baby Boomer” generation. By the late 1900’s, however, The Catcher in the Rye was no longer considered as objectionable when compared to other brooks that were starting to emerge. “An American Library Association survey published in 1996 found that the novel was accessible in almost 99% of libraries that the group had surveyed nationwide.

Salinger entered the U.S. Army shortly after World War ΙΙ had began. He was eventually sent over seas to Europe and helped storm Normandy and liberate France. While there Salinger used his language skills to interrogate German prisoners. “Salinger was so upset by what he witnessed of the war that he had to be hospitalized.”Salinger’s long-time literacy agent, Dorothy Olding guarded his privacy very zealously. She did reveal once, from the request of Salinger, that none of the fan mail had ever been forwarded to Mr. Salinger and that all the personal correspondence had been destroyed in 1970. Requests for interviews and proposals from publishers alike were routinely turned down. One of the few interviews he did give, and the last, was in 1953 to a New Hampshire high school student who had befriended Salinger.

In the mid-1980s Salinger sued a biographer named Ian Hamilton. When Hamilton told Salinger about his plans to do a biography on him Salinger strongly advised him no to do it. While Hamilton was researching on his reclusive author found some letters and stories which Salinger did not know existed anymore. Salinger filled a lawsuit against Hamilton to stop the current biography and to terminate all that he had written so far and start over. Hamilton had to write to more drafts before Salinger let him publish one. Salinger also made a copy write on all his publications so that no one could use or republish (in a biography) any of his work without first getting the go-ahead from Salinger himself.