This essay reviews the literature in the book “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. It examines several themes, ranging from teenage confusion, alienation and rebellion, especially during teen age. According to the literature, the novel was initially meant for adult audience. However, with time it has become increasingly more popular with the readers in adolescence or the youth who are just getting off the adolescent age. In particular, the portrayal of anti-hero factor in the novel has increasingly become a perfect exemplification of teenage rebellion. As such, the novel has not only become more popular in the America, but also in almost all countries in the world, spanning all the continents. This essay intends to take a critical look at the novel by putting into perspective all the major issues that have been raised, concerning the novel in the United States as well as the rest of the world (Salinger, 1951).
Sexuality and Sexual Identity
The novel investigates various sexual practices and outlines how they define the manner, in which young adults get to understand their own sexuality. For instance, Holden seems too concerned about preserving his sexual innocence at all cost. Although he had unrivalled curiosity with sexual matters, he had to squander all the available chances as he wanted to remain innocent. He did this at the expense of gaining carnal knowledge for himself. It was probably in light of this that he refused to have sex throughout the storyline of the novel. Essentially, Holden had developed a false idea during his earlier encounters with molestation and child abuse that sex is both degrading and “crumby”. As such, the writer intended to show the dangers of exposing young people to such traumatizing incidents in their lives at an early age. According to the novel, it can be rightly deduced that people’s sexual character as well as their identity are largely dependent on the kind of treatment they get in their childhood. Indeed, every child should be let free to live their lives only within limited acceptable parental guidance that are meant to make them whole and socially integrated. Any unnecessary restrictions may amount to child abuse and as such, interfere with their growth and development, resulting in a life defined more by sadness and isolation (Salinger, 1951).
The Use of Profanity
Salinger used a good variety of slang and profanity to the extent of wide spread criticism from parents and educators alike. However, he regarded it a necessity, especially considering the fact that he was discussing the complex issue of sexuality. According to him, the subject of sexuality can only be discussed in depth if people become more open and call the hard things by names. To this end, a lot of criticism was evident with most people, terming the literature as not meeting the threshold for “literary seriousness”. In particular, many critics pointed out to the informal tone, used in the novel, as the basis for the purported lack of seriousness. As such, many communities still impose a ban on this book to this date (Salinger, 1951).
Although widely surrounded with a dark cloud of controversy, the book has greatly appealed to a large number of people. In fact, it was quite popular as a bestseller, perhaps, due to the fact that the writing seemed to invoke the emotions of the readers in quite a unique way. In particular, the book was widely read, especially on the subject of personal alienation within a world of heartlessness during countercultural revolt that marked the period around the 1950s and 1960s. Essentially, Holden perfectly exemplified the young people who are faced with the life’s challenges and pressures to grow up, live by the rules of the community as well as restrict their own personalities. Ideally, the readers saw Holden Caulfield as a typical example of a young man pure at heart yet, faced with severe cultural oppression. In this respect, a good majority of the readers found the novel a very easy to identify with in the context of their own social lives (Salinger, 1951).