The Catcher in the Rye Essay - Critical Overview

Critical Overview

Mixed reviews greeted J. D. Salinger's first novel, The Catcher in the Rye, published on July 16, 1951. New York Times critic Nash K. Burger, for example, lauded the book as "an unusually brilliant first novel," and Chicago Tribune reviewer Paul Engle called the novel "engaging and believable." In contrast, T. Morris Longstreth stated in the Christian Science Monitor that "the book was not fit for children to read." Regarding Holden Caulfield, the book's teenage narrator and protagonist, Longstreth wrote- "Fortunately there cannot be many of him yet. But one fears that a book like this given wide circulation may multiply his kind— as too easily happens when immorality and perversion are recounted by writers of talent whose work is countenanced in the name of art of good intention." In the novel's defense, critic James Bryan wrote in PMLA: "The richness of spirit in this novel, especially of the vision, the compassion and the humor of the narrator, reveal a psyche far healthier than that of the boy who endured the events of this narrative. Through the telling of his story, Holden has given shape to, and thus achieved control of, his troubled past."

It can be argued that The Catcher in the Rye is as much a critique of society as a revelation of the rebellion and angst of a teenage boy. The book takes potshots at a post-World War II society full of self-righteousness and preoccupied by the pursuit of the...

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