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The Catcher In The Rye: Salinger's Autobiography

1060 words - 4 pages

America during the 1940s and into the 1950s saw post-war prosperity, the introduction of household conveniences such the modern CPI and the washing machine, and an increase of enrollment into prep schools. Novelist J.D. Salinger uses his own experiences and the emotional impact they had as major influences on his work. Salinger’s life of solitude, military service in WWII and the childhood he spent as a prep school student is reflected directly through the actions and thoughts of Salinger’s most recognized character, Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye.

The common adolescence struggle of self-identification is found in both J.D. Salinger and Holden Caulfield’s lives. Salinger was born in New York into a well-to-do family (Klingenberger 18). Growing up, he had a hard time in school and “found school uninspiring and struggled with grades. he attended a number of private prep schools before his father sent him to Valley Forge Military Academy just outside Philadelphia” (Klingenberger 18). His lackadaisical attitude towards life and academics heavily influenced his creation of characters with similar qualities. Salinger’s most famous character, Holden, struggles with the same challenges. Holden and Salinger both feel the need to give up because they are afraid of failure. “Do you ever get fed up… I mean, did you ever get scared that everything was going to be lousy unless you did something?” (Salinger 130). His motivation to amount to something bigger than himself is miniscule, which proves to be a problem for him as the book progresses. Salinger’s ability to take his experiences with teenage depression and relate it back to his novel The Catcher in the Rye is his own form of therapy, especially with his struggles overcoming PTSD following his time served in WWII (Klingenberger 19).

One major influence in Salinger’s life is the time he spent in Europe fighting in World War II. His thought processes and reasoning behind his actions can be brought back to the violence he witnessed and what he was required to do as a soldier (Klingenberger 19). He fought in important battles such as D-Day and Battle of the Bulge, and he also was a part of an intelligence organization that conducted interrogations of suspected espionage committers (Klingenberger 19). Salinger was eventually hospitalized due to the amount of stress he suffered from, and when he returned back to America, he wrote a short story about the stress and trauma of war, titled For Esme - With Love and Squalor (French 1). The short story isn’t the only work of literature that Salinger used to depict the damage the violence did to his mental state. The Catcher in the Rye captivates how Salinger thinks through Holden’s thoughts. Throughout the novel, Holden thinks about violence constantly, often fantasizing about hurting people, and even committing minor acts of violence,such as wrestling his roommate to the ground and choking him as “innocent horse play” (Salinger 30). Holden almost seems...

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