What is the central/primary purpose of "The Catcher in the Rye"?Is the purpose important or meaningful?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Catcher in the Rye" is a coming of age story.  It involves understanding the main character, Holden Caulfield's anxiety at becoming a young adult.  Holden is challenged by the responsibility and requirements of a young adulthood, rejecting them time and again.  He repeatedly fails out of school, won't apply himself and is emotionally isolated from his family and his peers.

Holden's story is a typical teenage story of the fear that dominates the mid to upper teen years, when young people are on the verge of adulthood, but still have one foot in childhood.  For Holden, he does not want to fully step into adulthood, he struggles to find a way to make his way back into childhood, resisting growing up, as if it were possible to stop the process . 

The book's title is a affirmation of Holden's dream job.  He wants to be a "catcher in the rye," literally interpreted to mean standing at the edge of a field of rye where children play and stopping them from falling over the cliff out of the rye.  Symbolically meaning, preventing children from losing the innocence that dominates childhood, keeping children safe from the phoniness of adulthood that Holden fears.

Holden's journey in the book leads him to a nervous breakdown, the physical and emotional exhaustion he experiences as a result of emotional confusion, his unwillingness to accept the inevitable, and suppressed grief over the death of his younger brother, Allie.


Wiggin42 | Student

JD Salinger wrote Catcher in the Rye after he came back from World War II. And although it wasn't know then, we can now reason out now that Salinger had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He wrote the novel as a way of venting out his feelings and his frustrations. When he showed it to The New Yorker (prestigious publication), the editor called Holden a crazy man. Salinger reportedly left the building crying. The point is that Salinger wrote Catcher for many reasons. The main purpose is hard to pinpoint but I think it was stress relief. Writing Catcher was a way for Salinger to get closure and put words to his feelings in a way that others could relate to him. 

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The Catcher in the Rye

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