The Evolution Of "The Catcher In The Rye" By Jd Salinger

1783 words - 7 pages

The success of Catcher in the Rye lays mainly in the main character, Holden Caulfield’s, depth of disposition. The creation of Holden by JD Salinger was a process of numerous stages. Salinger's cannibalization of his own works—including the short stories The Last and Best of the Peter Pans, This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise and A Slight Rebellion off Madison among others—and life led to the creation of the extremely popular Holden Caulfield of Catcher in the Rye; a character which embodies the “everyman”. As with much of his writing, parts of Salinger’s life, from his experience in the United States Army during World War II to his failed relationships with several women—including Oona O’Neill, daughter of writer Eugene O’Neill and fourth wife of Charlie Chaplin (Scovell)—were fictionalized and immortalized within his works. Taking all of this into consideration, Holden Caulfield looks to be an amalgam of the many forms of a distorted truth based on Salinger himself. Many years would pass after publishing the Catcher in the Rye before Salinger “would admit…Holden was an autobiographical character” (Alexander, 76).According to Rebecca Melvin, University of Delaware associate librarian “Self works often have tremendous popular appeal for the general reader. Readers may enjoy the role of voyeur, but just as often have sympathetic responses to authentic voices found in self works.” The incorporation of real life experiences is a smart technique to draw in readers. In the case of Catcher in the Rye, it was a chance for Salinger to write out his own flaws; the novel could be seen as a type of introspection, a catharsis (Morris). This secondary analysis of himself allows the author to point out his own flaws with astounding accuracy. His own hypocrisy is highlighted through the words and actions of his characters-something most apparent in Holden’s case. Holden himself is a well developed character who has the depth and flaws of a real person; the same flaws which originated in his creator. Those imperfections make him more real, human and appealing to the readers. Salinger’s first hand experience gives the character a better grasp of the situation which makes the stories more realistic. This may explain why Holden Caulfield is one of the most identified with character in American literature. Another aspect of his popularity is his dynamic personality; he seems stagnant, but in truth undergoes a major change in his beliefs: Holden realized at the end of the novel that he can’t change the world or save everyone in it. Heraclitus once said “You can never step in the same river twice”- people, like rivers, are constantly changing and evolving. If evolution is the hallmark of a human being, then it is also the hallmark of a good character, and Holden not only evolved, but changed along with JD Salinger. In the 1940’s Salinger enrolled in the Army-where his...

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