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Jd Salinger Essay, Research Paper
A Biography of J.D. Salinger with Concentration on the Early 1950?s, Particularly 1951-1952.
1. The 1950?s were a time of conservatism , the traditional American family, and similarity. During this time of the cherished American dream, a radical writer, who spoke to a nation of young individuals and alienated adults, emerged. Jerome David Salinger, generally referred to as J. D. Salinger, surfaced as a spokesman for a generation of post-World War II students and became one of the most popular American fiction writers. Salinger is most widely known for his only novel, The Catcher in the Rye, Published in 1951. The short stories he wrote were ?Nine Stories? in 1953, ?Franny and Zooey? in 1961, ?Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction? in 1963, ?Young Folk? in 1940 and ?A Perfect Day for Bananafish? in 1948. Many critics have considered J.D. Salinger a very controversial writer because of the subject matters he wrote about. For example Salinger wrote about religion, intellectuals, emotional struggles of
adolescents, loneliness and symbolism (Jones). He also published other stories between the years of 1948 and 1963 and this further increased his reputation as an author. Salinger wrote in a time where is was not better to be different. Despite this emphasis on similarity, Salinger wrote about unconventional themes and criticized American society. Although J. D. Salinger?s works have always been surrounded by controversy, Salinger became one of the most popular and influential American writers to appear after World War II. Although little is known about him as a person, J.D. Salinger?s work champions the defiance of adult phoniness and has impacted several generations since their publication.
2. Salinger was born in New York City on New Years? Day in 1919. The son of a Jewish father and Christian mother, Sol and Miriam, Salinger grew up in a Manhattan apartment. The younger of two children, Salinger enjoyed a close personal relationship with his older sister Doris. His early education consisted of a variety of private preparatory schools. Salinger earned average grades, but had immense trouble remaining in one school because, he did not fit in with the school environment. He was expelled from three preparatory schools, before finally graduating from Valley Forge Military Academy in 1936. This period of his life greatly influenced J. D. Salinger?s views on society and schooling. His writings display the pain of his early teenage years. For example, in his most famous work, The Catcher in the Rye, Valley Forge served as a model for Salinger?s fictional Pencey Preparatory school. Many of Salinger?s works parallel and reflect many aspects of his own life.
3. J. D. Salinger?s collegial education, involved the same sorts of troubles as his primary education. He attended New York University, Ursinus University in Pennsylvania, and Columbia University. He dropped out of Ursinus University in the middle of the first semester because of academic difficulties. Salinger was an intelligent individual, but did not quite fit in educational institutions. Despite these problems, college opened the doors of the literary world for Salinger. For example, Salinger took his first writing course in short story writing at Columbia University. While attending Columbia University, he came into contact with Whit Burnett, Salinger?s teacher and the publisher of an influential periodical, Story. By 1940, Salinger?s stories began to appear in periodicals throughout New York. Salinger devoted most of his college life to writing until the beginning of World War II. In 1942, Salinger enlisted in the United States Army. During this period he served in Europe and became a staff sergeant. His participation in the liberation of France and the Normandy campaign earned him five battle stars. Throughout the War, Salinger carried a portable typewriter and continued to write and publish about his experiences and the other GIs in the war (Hamilton 12). After his return from military service, Salinger?s name and writing style became increasingly associated with The New Yorker. During the late 1940?s he continued to publish numerous short stories, which later were published again as a collection of short stories.
4. In 1951, J. D. Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye with help from the Little Brown publishing company. This novel won critical and popular acclaim and was on the New York Times best seller list for over seven months. When The Catcher in the Rye was published in July 1951, reviews were generally good. Reviewing the book for The New York Times (16 July 1951), Nash K. Burger called it “an unusually brilliant first novel.” It was a main selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and was on the Times best-seller list for seven months, reaching fourth place in October. Yet no reviewer foresaw its becoming the classic novel of a generation. It would be five years before academics began writing about the novel and assigning it to their students. A product of ten years? labor, The Catcher in the Rye didn?t pay off for Salinger. It was not actually the immediate enormous succes that Salinger?s adoration squad fancies in retrospect(French 28). It had an uphill struggle for two years before establishing itself at the top of the junk-sculpture heap of postwar fiction. Salinger did not allow it to be made the midsummer selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and even permitted fellow novelist William Maxwell to quote him in a biographical sketch in the club?s magazine(28). The first reviewers far from agreed on the merits of the book. Only the New Yorker(August 11, 1951), to which Salinger contributed, rolled out the red carpet with a five-page laudation by another contributor, playwright S.N. Behrman. The New York Times and the Herald Tribune were evasive; Virgilia Peterson dodged the issue in the Herald Tribune (July 15, 1951) with the statement that the opinion of Holden Caulfield?s contemporaries would ?constitute the real test of Mr. Salinger?s valadity?(28). Catcher did not at first sell as well as Franny and Zooey had. Although it did make the best-seller list in the New York Times, it never reached the top. The Cain Mutiny, From Here to Eternity, and Nicholas Monsarrats The Cruel Sea monopolized the first three positions during the ten weeks from August 19 to October 21, 1951 when Catcher reached fourth place-the peak of it?s popularity. It remained on the list only twenty-nine weeks, about as long as Franny and Zooey was in first place. It last appeared in twelth place on March 2, 1952, while Herman Wouk?s nautical fantasy remained on the top and mnopolized the year?s awarda for the best novel(29). It is very evident that this must have been hard for Salinger to cope with seeing as this would turn out to be his greatest novel of all times.
5. Although its idiom and situations are characteristically American, Catcher has by no means been confined to an American audience. In an age of nuclear terror, adolescents everywhere, despite cultural differences, are perplexed by the same problems. The novel was published in England in August of 1951. In England, it has been almost as popular there as it had back home. First issued as a hard bound, it has been included in the paperbound Penguin series, and David Leitch reports that 180,000 copies of the latter edition were sold in two years, from 1951-53. The first Britihs reviewers took the novel even less seriously than most American ones. The Times Literary Supplement(September 7, 1951) found that ?the endless stream of blasphemy and obscenity? palls after the first chapter,? and R.D. Charques writing in Spectator(August 18, 1951) expressed the eneral sentimen when he wrote that ?the tale is rather too formless to do quite the sort of thing it was evidently intended to do?(French 125). According to the United Nations Economic and Social Council?s annual Index Translationum, Catcher appeared in three foreign-language editions in 1952, the year after it?s publication in this country. It was also said that other countries had their own versions of the text as well by 1953(125).
6. The very week that The Catcher in the Rye was published in July 1951,, the New Yorker carried Salinger?s most sophisticated story, ?Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes,? his only attempt to deal exclusively with the problems of mature, professional people already deeply involved in the ?ratrace?(130). It is evident here that this was indeed, 1951, a year that would set the pace for not only Salinger?s literary works, but the rest of his life.
In letters written to friends before he set off on a trip to Florida and Mexico in March 1952, Salinger hinted that something momentous had happened to him, and on his return he urged his British publisher to bring out a complete text of the thousand-page gospels of Hindu mystic Sri Ramakrishna, a propagator of the Advaita Vedanta system of thought, first propounded by Shankaracharya around the eighth century. Salinger subsequently became associated with the Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center in New York(Lyner 55). In April 1953, Salinger collected in Nine Stories those of his short stories which he considered worth preserving. All had been previously published in the United States except ?De Daumier-Smth?s Blue Period,? which first appeared in the World Review in London in May of 1952. (This magazine also printed ?For Esm?e? in August 1950, to introduce Salinger in England)(French 135). Salinger ’s new interest is alluded to in “De Daumier-Smith’s Blue Period”, published in May 1952. The title character is a painter about Salinger ’s age who has an extraordinary experience that strikes him as “having been quite transcendent” and leads to a reversal of his previous lifestyle. No particular system of Eastern thought is emphasized in the story. De Daumier-Smith’s experience has been compared to a Zen Buddhist satori (moment of temporary illumination), but Eberhard Alsen argues persuasively that the artist’s epiphany ought rather to be compared to the experience of Saint Paul on the road to Damascus in the Acts of the Apostles, where a blinding flash of light leads to his conversion. Salinger now became a nationally known figure. Seeing the success of his first novel, Salinger composed a collection of short stories in 1953, and released a selection of his best works in Nine Stories. Following the release of Nine Stories, Salinger became very reclusive and published less. In 1961, he again published a work composed of a combination of previous short stories called Franny and Zooey.
7. “The Catcher in the Rye is an intimate examination of basic human issues such as honesty, love, and religion, within Salinger’s larger theme of alienation” (Lyner 96). The Catcher in the Rye is the story of a sixteen-year-old boy named Holden Caulfield, and his coming-of-age. Holden is the son of wealthy parents who live near Central Park in New York. He narrates the story from a psychiatric institution near Hollywood. The story is of three days of Holden’s life after he is expelled from Pencey Preparatory school because he failed four out of five of his classes. The novel begins with a flashback to the days before he is expected to be home for Christmas vacation. Salinger shows life at Pencey Preparatory from Holden’s perspective. Holden leaves the school early and plans to spend time on his own in New York City. Though Holden does have friends at school and in New York, he is plagued with loneliness and alienation.
8. There is much more to The Catcher in the Rye than its story. During the time span of the aerly 50?s, especially that of 1951, Salinger fealt it necessary to incorporate and to relate to what was going on in society around him. Salinger used everyday language, symbolism, and a first person point of view very effectively. Telling the story from Holden’s perspective also allowed Salinger to use common teenage slang. Salinger’s style best shows Holden’s change of mood, his refusal to admit his own emotions, and his denial of reality. Salinger’s language presents a heart breaking adolescent. This is effectively done in all of his other novels as well. One of the underlying themes in The Catcher in the Rye is that of innocents versus the ?phonies?. The nonconformist Holden strongly admires innocence, and despises ?phoniness?.
9. The extraordinary successes of Salinger’s first novel, encouraged his publishers were determined to publish more of his works. The next book he released in 1953 was entitled Nine Stories. This was a collection of nine of his best stories, which had been published in the New Yorker. The most famous stories published in Nine Stories were “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”, “The Laughing Man”, and “For Esme–with Love and Squalor”. Most of these nine stories focus on children. In each story, Salinger’s children are fragile, odd, and intelligent, whereas his grown-ups seem overthrown down by environment and very unsympathetic. This childhood innocence is a recurring theme in Salinger’s works. From the outside, these stories are often humorous, but from the inside, they are about heartbreak. Each of the stories surrounds the themes of innocence, love, death, and corruption (Lyner 96).
10. In each of Salinger’s stories the recurring theme concerns people who do not fit in with the
traditional American culture. His characters in The Catcher in the Rye, Nine Stories, and Franny and Zooey are intelligent, but socially lacking. Some critics feel his writing was inappropriate because of the topics he wrote about. The main characters were considered misfits of society. The characters generally did not fit in with traditional American culture. They could not adjust to the real world. However, Salinger?s most successful stories are the ones about people who could not adjust. The super-intelligent humans who had to choose between the American culture at that time and the moral world, or choose between the ?phony? real world and the morally ?pure? world. Salinger creates these misfits, as heroes who do not fit into society. They struggle between the two worlds ? shallow and moral. The leading characters are on a mission of happiness. At first, Salinger does not lead the characters to material happiness; he has them start out in a bad situation. By the time they make it through the end of the story they have changed for the better. They must choose between the “phony” real world and a morally pure, innocent world. All of Salinger’s characters also reflect Salinger himself. He tends to write about familiar territory and this often flows directly from personal experience. For example, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden has numerous similarities between Salinger. They are both very bright individuals, but were both expelled from served preparatory schools; they both spent time in a mental institution; they both adored and respected their sisters; and they both dreamed about living in seclusion. It seemed that this 1950?s real human being was being incorporated into a great work.
11. Salinger’s themes have had an extraordinary impact on American society, especially during the early 1950?s when the themes of loneliness, death, isolation, innocence, and alienation are present, not only in each his works, but in the minds and hearts of his real live audience. Salinger was breaking new ground, and deviating from traditional values. Salinger’s stories were told in a common language, yet talked about serious subjects.
12. How did the nation react to the new ideals presented in these stories? The popular the reaction of the people was as divided as the literary criticism. Salinger was denounced by many for his use of profane language and his criticism of society; however, his work was lauded by others. Especially in 1951, a time, compared to modern day ideals, that was seen as conservative in many aspects, Salinger used ideas and languages that the general pubic fealt harsh and disgusting. Salinger’s novel and stories have even been banned in school, libraries, and reading lists throughout the country because of the strong language, sexual subject matter, and social criticism. Despite these disputes, children and teens of today can still relate to the feelings of his characters.
13. Thus, Salinger’s books have greatly changed the feelings of our nation. But how did Salinger’s success and the controversy surrounding his works impact Salinger himself? Well, in 1953 Salinger escaped the public and moved to Cornish, New Hampshire. Very little is known about Salinger himself because since the early 1950’s Salinger has continued to remain a recluse. At first, Salinger continued to publish fiction from his isolation, but published his last story in 1965. Since then he has withdrawn from publishing and the public life altogether.. Salinger has lived in seclusion from interviewers, fans, and everyone in the literary world. Salinger strongly wants his privacy- he even throws away his fan mail. Salinger has been remarkably successful in withholding information about his personal life, and it has become an obsession. He has closed down Internet sources, stopped the publication of his biographies, and placed No Trespassing signs surrounding his private property. Despite his efforts, Salinger and his works remains a subject of discussion.
14. By the middle of the twentieth century, Salinger was viewed as a leading an American realist. However, with recognition came criticism controversy. Some critics believe that Salinger’s works are magnificent, and intriguing, while others see Salinger’s novels as ??repetitive and take too few risks?(Salinger 2). For example, Stanley Hyman, author of “J.D. Salinger’s House of Glass” states: “I think that Jerome David Salinger is the most talented fiction writer in America. He can bring characters wonderfully to life and has a marvelous sensitivity to the young.” (Westbrook 298) Yet others argue that Salinger’s stories are “becoming too predictable and repetitive” (Salinger 2). Yet others, argue that Salinger’s stories are becoming too predictable and repetitive. Some literary critics have compared Salinger to the great American writers. “Salinger is allied to the joyful mysticism of Whitman, but he responds, too, to the mystical anguish of Emily Dickinson as well as to the macabre humor of Mark Twain.” according to James E. Miller (Westbrook 299). At the opposite pole, Salinger has been called one of the “most gifted minor writers” or “one of today’s best little writer’s” by Martin Green (Westbrook 298). Despite this controversy, critics are in widespread agreement when it comes to Salinger’s ability to capture the idiom of contemporary speech. Salinger has been called
perhaps one of the greatest word-weavers. Salinger has effectively provoked comment, debate, and disagreement throughout the nation.
15. For nearly fifty years, J.D. Salinger has had a strong, continuing effect on American culture, education, and the art of fiction. He has had a great influence on the beliefs our nation. At a time when our country needed assurance and a sense of realism, Cathcer hit home. Salinger spoke to a country of young individuals and estranged adults. He wrote works about characters like himself who could not adapt to the traditional American culture. Much like his fellow Americans during the early 1950?s, Salinger himself had to choose between living in a ?phony? world in which he could not understand, or a morally pure, world in isolation.
16. Salinger chooses to be a recluse and to live alone in the small town of Cornish, New Hampshire. Salinger says that he likes to write but he writes just for himself and his own pleasure. Salinger is a bizarre and peculiar writer. His style, expression, and tone are unique and illustrate to the readers the real intentions of his writings. They compel the readers to contemplate religion, corruption, innocence, sexuality, and love. Salinger’s characters reflect the emotions, feelings, and the beliefs of Salinger himself. Salinger?s stories could even be autobiographical. He is a real life illustration of his works. Salinger is a combination of Holden Caulfield, and other characters in his books that defy phoniness and serve as a model for generations. J. D. Salinger is an American author who has served as an icon which has defined adolescent rebellion for generations.
Hamilton, Ian. ?In Search of J.D. Salinger.? London, England. William Heinmann, 1988.
Hart, James D. ?Salinger, J(erome) D(avid).? Oxford Companion to American Literature, 5th edition. 1983 ed. 663.
Lundquist, James. ?J. D. Salinger.? New York, NY.: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1988.
Lyner, Mark. ?How to Avoid Salinger Syndrome.? Time. 5 July 1996: 96.
?Salinger, J(erome) D(avid).? Contemporary Authors. EDS. Barbara Harte and Carolyn Riley. Vols. 5-8. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co. 1969. Vertical File.
?Salinger, J(erome) D(avid).? Contemporary Authors. Ed. Susan M. Trosky. Vol. 39. Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1992. 332-338.
Westbrook, Max. , ?J(erome) D(avid) Salinger? Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. C. Riley. Vol. 1, Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1973, 84. Vols. 295-300.
?Salinger, J(erome) D(avid).? Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. C. Riley. Vol. 1, Detroit, Michigan: Gale Research Co., 1973, 84. Vols. 295-300.
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