From the Outside, Looking In
Despite the debate that may wage on regarding the status to be afforded J. D. Salinger's writings, the author's books have not quietly faded into obscurity. Although published almost a half-century ago, the author's most famous work, Catcher in the Rye, enjoys almost as healthy and devoted a following today as the book did when it was first published. Because of a self-imposed exile that began almost at the same time the Salinger's career was just taking off, much of the substance of the writer's lifehis thoughts, ideals, writing objectivesremain shrouded in mystery. The few writings Salinger did offer up for public consumption, though, provide his audience cryptic clues into his inner most thoughts and psyche. The predominant figures in the author's fiction are societal outcasts, struggling to understand and accept the values of the world in which they live. As a result of their conflict, Salinger's main characters, and particularly the main character of Catcher in the RyeHolden Caulfieldcome to bear such labels as "mentally disturbed," "insane rebels," or "trouble makers." It is society as a whole, and not Salinger's characters; however that is twisted for accepting the tortured, hypocritical notions that seem to dominate religion, education and politics.
Given the attention and notoriety that J. D. Salinger's books continue to receive up and until the present day, it is a wonder that the author has done little for over four decades to bring notice to himself or his literary works. Instead, Salinger has attempted to shield himself as well his literary motives by taking up an almost hermit-like existence. Despite his elaborate efforts to hide behind a shadowy, elusive persona, J. D. Salinger has publicly bared his innermost thoughts for all to see through the dialogue of his fictional characters. Perhaps the reason the author has become such a recluse is because it is only by withdrawing from society that Salinger has been able to resolve his personal conflicts with the workings and objectives of the society in which he lives.
Take religion for example. If his writings truly do offer some insight into the private thoughts and beliefs of the author, J. D. Salinger is a God-fearing man who has the utmost respect for his Creator. It is not the reverence of a divine being that causes Salinger difficulty; it is the mind-numbing customs and practices that cause parishioners to lose focus on the basic reason they engage in religious worship that compels the writer to speak out. The formal practice of religion at times places a greater emphasis on conformance with rituals than it does on fostering a better understanding and appreciation of the basic notions upon which a religion is based. In Salinger's mind, some religious practices have run so far afield of the original premise upon which the religion was based that he questions whether the customs today can even loosely be tied to actual religious...