Is the influence that The Catcher of the Rye has on adolescents positive or negative?

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clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a question that is largely up to personal opinion and therefore very difficult to prove with concrete evidence.  I tend to be on the side that The Catcher in the Rye is generally more of a positive influence than a negative one.

First, students tend to immediately like and personally relate to the novel's protagonist.  As a result they are interested in the story.  This book seems more "real" to many students than most classic literature.  Second, despite the ongoing debate that Holden's language and life outlook are detrimental to teenagers minds and attitudes, I would maintain that most students are surrounded by similar language and attitudes on a daily basis, at school.  The fact that this is a book somehow provides an appropriate basis for discussions which might otherwise seem taboo in a high school classroom.  As a teacher, I enjoy talking about real life and debating the "hard questions" but have a difficult time justifying the relevance of such discussions unless they are connected to literature.  This book directly connects life and literature for many students.

Finally, in my opinion, any book that students largely enjoy and one which gets them excited about reading (in any way) is inherently more positive than negative.  Teachers today are dealing with a large struggle to keep kids interested in a skill and practice that seems to be becoming "outdated."  This book's honesty and directness is refreshing and surprising to most teenagers, and reminds them that books aren't as "old" or "boring" as they usually give them credit for.

accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very interesting question and I am sure you are going to receive a number of different answers to it. I do wonder whether such questions however underestimate the intelligence of adolescents. So often people speak of the bad influences that are out there in society as if adolescents are so gullible and naive that they will, for example, go out and kill someone because they played a violent game. I don't necessarily think that reading this novel by itself will impact adolescents negatively. I do think, that if understood properly, it will help them to think through their own process of maturity and growing up and such concepts such as innocence and experience. In this sense, I think reading this novel could be a very positive thing for adolescents.

I also think that it is actually helpful to have a novel written from the point of view of a character such as Holden who is really struggling with life and clearly has a number of unresolved issues regarding his brother's death and his own concept of self-identity. This is a very honest portrayal of an adolescent who, in addition to facing all the normal struggles of adolescence, is likewise struggling with other issues. This is a figure that I related to a lot when I read it as a teenager, but also a anti-heroic figure that I am sure all adolescents will be able to relate to at least partly. I think it is key that the novel ends with Holden receiving help for his issues, and thus it presents us with a positive way of handling the problems that the onset of adolescence brings.

universe | Student


I'm a high school teacher for the past tird tea years and i think that book was depreesing. I make it read to my students so they can know true pain. seriously one crybaby student cry after the second chapter.Holden remember too much of john f kennedy.Since i'm a physical education teacher, i have the right to tell yopu my true opinion i'm dizapointed of sallinger

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