Innocence, Compassion, and some Crazy Cliff A novel, which has gained literary recognition worldwide, scrutiny to the point of censorship and has established a following among adolescents, The Catcher in the Rye is in its entirety a unique connotation of the preservation of innocence and the pursuit of compassion.
With certain elegance the writer J.D. Salinger, substantiates the growth and perils, which lie between childhood and adulthood. Embellishing the differentiation between innocence and squalor in the grasps of society. The bridge that lies between these contrasting themes are personified through the novels protagonist, Holden Caul-field and his visualization of a cliff, which depicts a dividing point between the evident beginning and end. The connection, which binds this gap in reality, was made clear through a new found compassion, consummating Holdens place in society through the realization of his surroundings from which he successfully crosses over.
Focusing on the rebellious and confused actuality of adolescents stuck between the innocence of childhood and the corruptness of the adult world, this novel strikes a cord, which most adolescents can relate. The essence of the story The Catcher in the Rye follows the forty-eight hour escapade of sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield, told through first person narration. After his expulsion from Pency, a fashionable prep school, the lat-est in a long line of expulsions, Holden has a few confrontations with his fellow students and leaves shortly after to return to his hometown, New York City. In the heart of New York City, Holden spends the following two days hiding out to rest before confronting his parents with the news. During his adventures in the city he tries to renew some old acquaintances, find his significance in the adult world, and come to grips with the head-aches he has been having lately.
Eventually, Holden sneaks home to visit his sister Phoebe, because alone on the streets he feels as if he has no where else to turn. Children are the only people with whom Holden can communicate with throughout the novel, not because they can help him with his growing pains but because they remind him of a simpler time (his inno-cence), which he wishes he could return. The trials of the adult world wear down Holdens vision of a place in society, portraying innocence as a form of retreat from a confusing world.
On the subject of innocence and symbolism there of, which is repre-sented through Holdens thoughts and actions, S.N. Behrman writes: “Holdens difficulties affect his nervous system but never his vision. It is the vision of an innocent. To the lifeline of this vision he clings invinci-bly, as he does to a phonograph record he buys for Phoebe (till it breaks) and a red hunting cap that is dear to him and that he finally gives to Phoebe, and to Allies baseball glove.” Understanding Holdens notion of innocence and the role it plays throughout the novel helps to put in tune the underlying message found in Holdens description of the catcher in the rye. “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobodys around–nobody big, I mean- except me.
And Im standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean if theyre running and they dont look where theyre going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. Thats all Id do all day.
Id just be the catcher in the rye and all.” (Pg. 173) The princi-ple of the catcher in the rye is a means for Holden to devote his life to the protection of innocence. The significance of the catcher image lies in three areas of thought as implied by B. Ramachandra Rao: “First of all, it is a savior image, and shows us the extent of Holdens re-ligious idealism.
Secondly, it crystallizes for us Holdens concept of good and evil; childhood is good, the only pure good, but it is surrounded by perils, the cliff of adolescence over which the children will plunge in the evil of adulthood unless stopped. But finally, the image is based on a mis-understanding. The Burns poem goes If a body meet a body not if a body catch a body, and the fact that Phoebe is aware of this and Holden is not, plus the manner in which these two words (catch and meet) are re-examined and re-interpreted by Holden at the end of the novel, shows us in a powerful and deeply suggestive way the center of Holdens diffi-culty.” Holdens view of life as it is and the way life should be is based on a misunder-standing of mans place in society. Having difficulty coming to grips with this misunder-standing, Holden crosses a threshold. Later he fatefully comes in contact with his sister once again, at the Central Park carrousel in the final scene of the novel.
At the sight of his sister he is overcome by a love for all people when he sees how much his sister cares about him. Domenic Bruni, incorporates this theme in his statement: “Holden has accepted a new positionan undiscriminating love for all mankind. He even expresses that he misses all the people who did wrong to him He is not mature enough to know what to do with this love, but he is mature enough to accept it. In this world, realizing what is squalor and what is good, and loving it all is the first step in achieving identity and humility: compassion is what Holden learns.” The foretelling of the story ends abruptly but we learn that Holden in the end goes out west and is seeking psychological treatment in California. Through his recovery and the experiences of those two lonely days, he gains compassion towards everyone, in-cluding himself. While his vision of the catcher in the rye was a hope, a dream, and a job Holden realizes that such a dream is impractical in the world. Although innocence is not lost in Holdens case, it is apparent that it was only passed by but by facing the world and loving it indiscriminately, such compassion will fill his need for acceptance and place in the world.
Substantially giving Holden an admission into society and the acceptance of the responsibilities of adulthood. J(erome) D(avid) Salinger, is an American author, who controversially dared to cross the line of literary standards. In his first and only novel The Catcher in the Rye, proved to be Salingers most important and influential literary work, establishing him as a leading author and cultural icon. As the popularity of his novel grew, Salinger became increasingly reclusive and has incidentally avoided the public eye for over thirty years. Under an apparent cloak of secrecy, the real story of Salinger lies incomplete and myste-rious.
Although much about his life is uncertain, it is clear that Salinger was born on January 1 1919 in New York, New York, the second child and only son of Sol and Miriam Salinger. Since much of Salingers early days are clouded and unknown, the only link to his apparent adolescence is through the statement that his “boyhood was very much the same as that of the in the book Holden.” Salinger attended public schools on Manhattans upper West Side and during his high school years he transferred to the pri-vate McBurney School, where he flunked out after one year. In 1934, his father enrolled him at Valley Forge Military Academy, a private prep school in Pennsylvania.
After graduation in 1936, Salinger enrolled in a short-story writing course at Columbia Univer-sity in New York and began publishing some of his short stories. Salinger was inducted into the service in 1942, at the age of twenty-three, the following year, he was transferred to the Counter-Intelligence Corps and later joined the American Forth Division, he landed on Utah Beach five hours after the initial assault on D-Day. After the war, Salin-ger began publishing again and featured his stories in the Saturday Evening Post and Colliers. By 1951, Salinger has established his reputation exclusively in The New Yorker and the popularity of his work was emerging among college students.
And so, he re-leased The Catcher in the Rye, after working on and off on it for ten years. Although it was not an immediate hit it did give Salinger an increasing critical praise and respect. Eventually, as critical acclaim grew, the letters, autograph seekers, and interview-ers began hunting him down and so he became annoyed and moved to Cornish, New Hampshire, where he has lived ever since. While secluding himself from the rest of the world Salinger began work on Nine Stories, which includes a number of published short stories and introduces the Glass family, the central figures of his later works. Nine Sto-ries was published in 1953, after which Salinger published four lengthy short stories about the problems of the extremely bright and overly sensitive children of the Glass family. The books in this short story collection include Franny and Zooey (1961), and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction (1963).