What is the overall message that Salinger wanted you to take away from The Catcher in the Rye?

Expert Answers
William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator


It would appear that J. D. Salinger’s central/primary purpose in writing “The Catcher in the Rye” was to present his negative but somewhat compassionate view of humanity. He chose to do this by writing in the persona of an exceptionally intelligent and articulate sixteen-year-old boy who was particularly concerned about the subject because he was entering adulthood himself and could see how adults’ characters and  values were distorted by the need to survive and procreate in a highly competitive world. Salinger’s novel has been compared with Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, in that both present a dark picture of the human race through the eyes of a child. Another assessment of adults through a child’s perspective is to be found in one of John Cheever’s insightful short stories, “The Sorrows of Gin,” in which the viewpoint character is a little girl about the same age as Holden’s sister Phoebe.

The voices woke Amy, and, lying in her bed, she perceived vaguely the pitiful corruption of the adult world; how crude and frail it was, like a piece of worn burlap, patched with stupidities and mistakes, useless and ugly, and yet they never saw its worthlessness, and when you pointed it out to them, they were indignant.



Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question