A New Look at an Old Book: A Reality Check With “The Catcher in the Rye”

By Malcolm Fuller

catcherJD Salinger’s timeless novel, “Catcher in the Rye,” is certainly a reality check for a reader, illuminating society’s issues and shortcomings, and trying to shelter the younger generation from them.

In Summerville, South Carolina, Catcher in the Rye was challenged and removed from the Dorchester School District 2 curriculum in 2001 by a school board member. This classic has been challenged time and again for numerous different reasons.

No individual or school district will ever be able to remove a book from society. No matter how hard people try to “ban” a book, people will still read these books.

Numerous generations have grown up with two novels that have hotly debated, yet vastly popular, Catcher in the Rye and Adventures of Huckleberry. Being of one of the generations who have been exposed to both classics, both novels have caused me to think about society in different ways.

Despite forever being banned or challenged by school districts across the country, this book will forever be a timeless classic. The antics of Holden Caulfield are relatable to a number of demographics, none more than the American teenager.

In a stirring conversation between Caulfield and one of his former teachers at Pencey Prep, Mr. Spencer, Spencer says, “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” Caulfield responds quickly, but is hiding how he really feels, his contempt for adults.

This contemptuous attitude toward authority is one of the many aspects of Caulfield’s personality that continues throughout the course of the book, and is something that every American teenager can relate to in some stage of their life.

Although this is considered a banned book, the aspects of the book that make it “banned,” languages, references to prostitution, and things concerning moral issues are important aspects of society that help teenagers get a grasp on society and have an idea for how the world works.

Throughout the book, Caulfield struggles with many of the issues the average American teenager goes through in that time of their life, but in the end while he still struggles with some of the same issues, he seems to have shed some of his cynicism for society that he has held onto throughout the book. This becomes clear in the final page of the book when he says, “Don’t tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” This statement tells the reader that over the course of his life he has learned from his mistakes and has actually taken things in from the world that turns out to be very valuable to him. So the quote, “missing everybody,” indicates that he has shaken off some of his bitterness towards the world. Also, that he is beginning to realize that there is more to the world that he originally thought.

Anyone who thinks this book encourages rebellious behavior in teenagers is wrong. Books can have thousands of interpretations, and all are dependent on the reader. One person or one group of people cannot determine what books people can or can’t read. People are going to read books until the end of time, no matter what other people say about them.

All of his issues he has with society and the people in it are all the issues the average American teenager deals with throughout their teenage years. This coming of age novel is an important part of our society today because it teaches teenagers that everything will turn out okay, and that there is nothing too big to overcome.

Rebellion and Teenagers are always going to be almost synonymous to each other, regardless of the books they read. Yes, rebellion usually carries a negative connotation, but there have been so many instances where a group had challenged our society and positively influenced our society. 

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