Presentation on theme: "J.D. Salinger & The Catcher in the Rye They’re kind of a big deal…"— Presentation transcript:
J.D. Salinger & The Catcher in the Rye They’re kind of a big deal…
J.D. Salinger: the man Obscure and enigmatic figure Jerome David Salinger: January 1, 1919 – January 27, Born in NYC to Jewish father & Christian mother Early life on Park Avenue Jaded & disdainful
J.D. Salinger, cont. Entered New York University in 1936 but quickly dropped out His father sent him to Poland and Austria to become acquainted with the suppliers of his food import business, perhaps in the hope that he would one day take over the family business, but Salinger was convinced from an early age that he wanted to be a writer Felt alienated, unhappy, and disdainful of the process and rituals of formal education, so he left Ursinus and returned to New York, where he took a night class at Columbia University taught by Whit Burnett, a famous editor and the owner of Story magazine
J.D. Salinger, cont. One of the most widely discussed & influential writers in 1950s & ‘60s America Began writing at age 15 & began writing stories targeted for sale to the popular mass market magazines of the era and had his first one published in Story in Published stories in The New Yorker (infrequently) Early acclaim for short stories, including “Teddy” and “Perfect Day for Bananafish” (about the fictional Glass family, ends with a war veteran’s suicide) Longer works include The Catcher in the Rye (novel) and Franny and Zooey (novella)
J.D. Salinger, cont. Served in the United States army, seeing active service in Europe during WW2, was on Normandy beaches on D-day & observed the ferocious fighting & witnessed the liberation of Paris Met Ernest Hemingway, who was serving as a war correspondent, in Paris and remained friends; Hemingway recognized Salinger’s talent Saw tremendous slaughter and casualties once more when he participated in the fight to liberate Luxembourg, known as the Battle of the Bulge, by interrogating prisoners of war (even after the Nazis surrendered, a particularly unenviable task for a half-Jewish American, considering the profound horror of the Nazi attempt to exterminate European Jewry)
J.D. Salinger, cont. Explored kriya yoga, Dianetics (forerunner of Scientology), Christian Science, macrobiotics, homeopathy, acupuncture, the teachings of Edgar Cayce, fasting, purging, Vitamin C Urine Therapy, speaking in tongues, and sitting in a Reichian “orgone box” Like many of his post-modern and modern contemporaries influenced by Eastern Philosophy, he took a great interest in Zen Buddhism Reclusiveness: as his celebrity grew, he withdrew progressively from the limelight (unable to handle it), retreating from New York City to small village of Cornish, New Hampshire after growing hostile to the NY literary and publishing world Last published work in 1965, last interview 1980, then refused media contact & demanded privacy though hounded (protect creativity and scandalous secrets) Art vs. Commericialism” “phoney” Legal troubles – Salinger sued to prevent publishing of biography, film adaptations, sequels to novels, etc.
J.D. Salinger, cont. Married Sylvia Welter, whom he met in Germany but ended after 8 months Dated Oona O’Neill, daughter of playwright Eugene O’Neill until she left him for Charlie Chaplin Married Claire Douglas and had children Margaret and Matthew, marriage marked by discord after 1 st child born, wife at one point planned to commit infanticide and suicide At age 53 had a year long relationship with 18 year old Joyce Maynard, an experienced writer for Seventeen Magazine who wrote an article for The New Yorker that made her a celebrity, and Salinger wrote a letter to her warning about living with fame, they exchanged 25 letters, Maynard moved in with Salinger for 10 months, the relationship ended (he told his daughter that Maynard had wanted children, and he felt he was too old, but Maynard said Salinger abruptly ended the relationship and and that she came to find out that Salinger had begun relationships with young women by exchanging letters, including Salinger's last wife, a nurse who was already engaged to be married to someone else when she met him) Dated TV actress Elaine Joyce until he left her for nurse Colleen O’Neill (40 years younger) whom he married
Catcher in the Rye Published & set in early 1950s, dedicated to Salinger’s mother 1.5 million copies sold upon publication, translated into 30 languages within 10 yrs. of its publication Still sells over 250,000 copies per year! Total sales to date: 65 million! First editions over $5500 One of most influential American novels Favorite book of many, including Winona Ryder, Bill Gates, etc. Referenced in pop culture (i.e. Green Day song, Conspiracy Theory movie - Mark Chapman inspired by/toured NY with it before murdered John Lennon) Continued controversy due to profanity and anti-social attitudes Banned!
Style & Historical Context of Catcher Cusp of Modernism & Postmodernism (but generally considered Post Modern) Allusions (main character has sophisticated literary background – references famous authors and texts such as Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms, Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet ), often to express themes (i.e. alienation, romanticism/idealism, non-conformity/ rebellion) Humor Irony (ironically imitates several powerful literary traditions) First person limited: told from mental hospital soon after end of WWII (soldiers were returning, alienated, difficulty adjusting to civilian life disillusionment) in Manhattan which was safer & less hostile then, Great Depression Over, New Deal Programs (economy improving), McCarthyism & Age of Suspicion (Red Scare) – spirit of repression (ironic because book banned & main character opposed to censorship), nuclear threat (bomb shelters, school drills increased fear/paranoia (esp. affected young people – main character both attracted to and repulsed by undercurrent of fear), suburban communities (“Levittowns”) emerged, Beat Generation (the “Beats”) – refers to weary, defeated rhythms of poerty & jazz and advocated individuality, poetry, jazz, Buddhism, controversial lifestyles (anti- establishment)
Holden Caulfield: the man (boy), the myth, the legend Witty, sardonic, sad, poignant tale of troubled, alienated, awkward adolescent, Holden Caulfield who is unable to accept social norms & values and is struggling to grow up & adjust to the adult world (reflects Contemporary artists’ struggle with vulgar customs and values of commercial urban civilization) – wants to run away from “phony” adult world Bildungsroman: coming of age story about an idealistic and romantic (often unrealistic) youth Aligned w/Huck Finn as one of the most popular adolescent heroes in American Literature Icon of teenage rebellion & alienation Rich kid kicked out of prep. school (again), comments on phoniness of school/classmates/adults, lies (often tells what people want to hear), checks into a hotel because parents aren’t expecting him home yet & wanders around NYC
Themes & Characters Robert Burns poem: loss of innocence Phoebe: Holden’s little sister “I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy.” Cynicism of adult world Hypocrisy Older brother, D.B. Parents Pencey Prep Luce & Stradlater
Themes & Characters, cont. Spiritual emptiness Sensitive teen hiding behind veneer of cynicism: Allie: brother who died of leukemia Mr. Antolini & Mr. Spencer Central Park: pause button for life…