J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has been banned in many school districts. Should this book be taught in high school? Why has it remained so popular?J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye...
J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has been banned in many school districts. Should this book be taught in high school? Why has it remained so popular?
J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is often assigned in high schools because it tells a story of an angst-ridden rebellious male teenager very similar to the students who are reading it. Of course, the prep school background of the story is not relevant to all students or school districts, but the issues of adolescent rebellion, the conflicts arising from nascent sexuality, issues of trust vs. independence are universal. Some parents felt that the strong language and bad behaviour of the protagonist should limit its use as a text, but in the sixty years since its publication, what was once shocking is now far milder than 21st century music and television, and thus they are no longer an issue.
Personally, I’m not sure if I would assign it, as I feel it lacks the depth and moral interest of works like The Lord of the Flies or the literary skill of Lewis Carroll or R. L. Stevenson, but I can’t see legitimate grounds for censorship.
I have always thought (and been reviled for thinking) that the book was a bit overrated. Seeing some agreement from others in this thread makes me feel a bit better about that, to be honest.
That being said, Catcher still speaks to some young people who feel the same way Holden does, and as bullgatortail has pointed out, books that people feel are worth banning are usually worth discussing. It is indeed a bit dated, and most objections to it are based on language, which is really absurd in this day and age.
I wouldn't consider it part of any literary canon that high school students ought to read, but the idea that it (or most other books) ought to be banned from school libraries or reading lists is, with apologies, just dumb.
One of the reasons that The Catcher in the Rye has been so popular mimics that of many novels aimed at the teen audience. Because it is told from Holden's perspective and he points out how so many people seem to misunderstand him, in particular his parents, it fits with the way that so many teenagers feel about the world and so remains popular. Yet it isn't nearly as popular as it was given the sense of datedness that now afflicts it. Not many teenagers are picking it up by choice.
But I don't see any reason to ban the book, there is plenty of bad language and bad behavior around almost any teen, the idea that reading it in a book would somehow increase it is absurd.
I am of the opinion that any book that is banned must have some elements that are worth discussing. As the years go by, The Catcher in the Rye probably grows less relevant, and its reasons for being banned--mostly due to bad language and teen rebelliousness--seem much more tame than other novels found in school libraries today. Still, people who first read the book during the 1950s and the tumultuous 1960s will remember it as a pivotal novel: Millions of teenagers identified with Holden, and it still has a place as a period piece concerning teen angst and anti-establishment rebellion.
I have to confess that I also find the book somewhat overrated and that I also find Holden an often unappealing character. Yet Holden often inspires a great deal of (anti-)hero worship. One reason the book was controversial when it first appeared is that it used so much explicit profanity. I once wrote an essay on the book in which I quoted liberally from Holden's profane speech, and the publisher decided to eliminate that section lest it prove offensive to readers. Thus, discomfort with some of Holden's language is still with us.
The book appeals to youth of a certain social and historical period. The book is about rebellion in a sense and teenage angst and anger. Holden, the main character, feels misunderstood and he thinks everyone is phony. These themes resonate with teen in America's past history. Today there is much more freedom for children and teens. For this reason, it is no big deal. In my opinion it should be optional reading.
There is never any reason to ban a book. Catcher isn't anywhere near as profane or controversial as it was on its release, and there are hundreds of books far worse. Even if we think that a book is inappropriate, for whatever reason, we should keep it available so we can see what was written and avoid it in the future. If we censor the past, we will forget it.
I agree with Post 3 the most. This book is popular because it is so angry. Many teens feel that they are misunderstood by society and that everyone but them is in some way phony. I find it ironic that any such teen would like this book, though, since Holden seems phony to me.