“Catcher In The Rye” Argumentative Essay
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An Argument for One of America’s Classics
J.D. Salinger’s reputation precedes him, and he is known for many things: his reclusiveness, his timeless stories, his literary works, and perhaps most importantly, his novel, Catcher in the Rye, the adult content and the cult following that led to its banning in 1951. This was only the first banning of the novel, as it would become one banning after banning by schools and libraries alike. All of this led to its taboo reputation, but one must ask why that is the case. Why is the book so taboo, and does it deserve this reputation or not? Should it, in fact, be banned? The simple answer is no. In fact, the very same reasons it has been banned are the reasons it should be exalted. It is a literary masterpiece, and this is evident from its ability to impact so many readers, and its pure unadulterated content that may be offensive at times, but honest and genuine just the same.
J. D. Salinger’s novel, Catcher in the Rye, is criticized for many things, one of the most frequent of which is that numerous “criminals” that champion Salinger’s book. So the argument goes that Salinger’s book is in part responsible for these crimes because those criminals either admitted to the influence the book had on them, in the case of John Lennon’s assassination by Mark David Chapman (Chasan), or because they had it in their hotel room, in the case of John Hinckley Jr. and his attempt to assassinate Ronald Regan (“The Catcher in the Rye in Popular Culture”). This argument, however, is no more than guilt by association. The beauty of this book is precisely its ability to cut through to so many people. This includes all types of people, including sociopaths and psychopaths. Salinger’s writing is so rich and honest and pure, that everyone connects, and this is why it deserves all the acclaim it has gotten over the years. This is why there are entire websites devoted to letters written to J.D. Salinger. Many of his characters, but especially Holden Caulfield, are incredibly relatable and they move people. His characters articulate the thoughts that so many of us have. They struggle with all the things we struggle with. They seem to be real, living human beings with all their complexities and nuisances, and yet, they are the work of fiction. This is the product of a pure craftsman, and this is why the book is so remarkable. Yes, it received some very negative publicity because of individuals who misinterpreted the message of Catcher in the Rye. His message was one of humanity, not of destruction.
The adult content is the other biggest criticism and reason for banning the book. The book is filled with adult situations including drunkenness, prostitution, and delinquency (Chasan), and the language the protagonist Holden Caulfield uses is often obscene and filled with curse words. These criticisms stand, and this might be some very racy content for adolescents who have become extremely attached to the book. The book is about an adolescent and his navigation through a world of pain and suffering, and this speaks to young people. It is not the content that should bother those who seek to ban the book, but the message about the type of world we live in and the struggles all of us face. To ignore the issues Holden experiences (by banning the book), is to ignore the issues that blight society. Salinger does not aim to encourage adolescents to engage in delinquent behavior, but rather, he encourages his readers, young and old alike, to interrogate what is behind those behaviors and reshape a poisoned society that nurtures young people instead of isolating them. The content matter of Catcher in the Rye is far ahead of its time, and this struck people as edgy and provocative. However, those same truths exist now as much as they did then, and it was bravery on Salinger’s part to present that to the world. There is a reason it became so popular, and there is a reason why it is still celebrated as one of the greatest books ever written. It is simply because of the content matter that is so often condemned. Salinger showed us a reflection of our ugly society and the impact it had on a youth immersed in it, and we point the finger at Salinger instead of ourselves. The book was cutting edge; it still is. It was a revolutionary book, and it should be celebrated as such, rather than be hidden away in basements or ushered off the shelves of school libraries.
Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is no doubt controversial. It portrays the journey of a young boy contending with the world. The content is at times shocking and unadulterated, but it’s also true. Revealing the truth is the success of timeless literature, and J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye falls into this category. Literature touches people, and books will continue to affect different people in different ways, but one measure of success should certainly be the sheer amount of people that can be moved by a book or even a character. J.D. Salinger has achieved all this and more with his book. For all these reasons, Catcher in the Rye should never have been banned at all.
Chasan, Daniel Jack. “Why J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ still provokes book bans.” Crosscut.com. 19 March 2010. Web. 8 April 2015.
“The Catcher in the Rye in popular culture.” Wikipedia.com. May 2012. Web. 8 April 2015.
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