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Jerome David Salinger announced about himself in the 40-ies of XX century, having published several novels and short stories. His best works written in the 50-ies have received international recognition, and the novel-confession "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951) is considered to be one of the most notable events in the postwar literature of the United States of America. Using a Zen image, Salinger often compares his characters with an inverted forest, all the leaves of which are under the ground. Saints, madmen, and maybe freaks, they constitute a sort of secret brotherhood bearing the burden of unrequited love for mankind, brotherhood of grieving for lost human values. Such is the protagonist of the novel "The Catcher in the Rye" Holden Caulfield. In his 16 years he was no longer a child but not yet an adult. He was a teenager, hesitated at the threshold of life, and free from care and responsibility, who wanders through native New York as the desert. Edgy, sincere, gentle, vulnerable, and unwittingly injuring others, he rushes about looking and not finding any in the world of something close and attuned to himself. Caulfield's age is the time of direct impressions, intuitive experience. Responsive and feeling fine, he serves Salinger as a kind of an ethical tuning fork.
The familiarity with the hero comes at a time when he is on "rest and treatment" in a sanatorium for nervous patients. Caulfield tells his story himself, and it begins with that fateful day before Christmas, when he was expelled from Pencey Prep - a privileged high school in Agerstown, Pennsylvania, because of a poor performance.
The hero is going through an acute moral crisis. Expulsion is not for the first time in his life (for the same reason he was expelled from three other colleges). And now he is in prospect again of unhappy way home and a hard explanation with the parents. In addition a sporting event was not held to his fault (Holden was the captain of the fencing team, he forgot his sports equipment in metro because of absent-mindness), and the boys "boycotted" him. Holden Caulfield has not easy relationships with his comrades, and with the outside world in general. Sometimes he is too shy and touchy, sometimes he is arrogant, sarcastic, and sometimes - just rude. The hero realizes that he has a complicated, quarrelsome nature.
His demeanor does not help him to make contact with others: sometimes he behaves like a thirteen-year old, and people notice that and tell him about it, sometimes he behaves, "like being much older than his years, but people do not notice that." (Salinger Jerome David,1951). He understands that this behavior is ridiculous, and all that oppresses teenager. But most of all he is inhibited not by personal circumstances, but by the spirit of universal deceit and mistrust between people prevailing in the country. Here is, for example, an advertising of a prestigious educational institution through the eyes of Caulfield: "some hotshot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time. I never even once saw a horse anywhere near the place. And underneath the guy on the horse's picture, it always says: «Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men.Ð’» Strictly for the birds. They don't do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school. And I didn't know anybody there that was splendid and clear-thinking and all. Maybe two guys. If that many. And they probably came to Pencey that way." (Salinger Jerome David,1951). The bigotry of Director Haas, and false charity of "funeral" businessman Ossenburger, and uncleanliness of Stradlater, hiding behind his foreign "landscape" beauty were hateful of him.
The hero has not received yet a sufficient education and did not accumulate enough life experience, because of his age, but he is endowed with a special flair. Holden reacts painful and violently to the smallest manifestations of hypocrisy, the usual platitudes, or meanness. He does not accept injustice, insincerity, he is skeptical with respect to the universally recognized authority. Like any teenager, he is a maximalist, and that is why a negative perception of reality is often somewhat exaggerated. This is reflected in the fact that even in people whom he likes and whom he respects, Caulfield automatically marks to himself unpleasant details. His senses are so acute, that he reacts negatively to even minor, subtle at all for most people, manifestations of insincerity. He admires the beauty of Sally Hayes, but her mannerisms makes him sick.
In art, Caulfield also does not also allow deliberate "schlock" (Hollywood melodramas, variety consumer goods), trying to judge the game of famous actors. "You know - I mean they were good, but they were too good. When one of them got finished making a speech, the other one said something very fast right after it. It was supposed to be like people really talking and interrupting each other and all. The trouble was, it was too much like people talking and interrupting each other. ... If you do something too good, then, after a while, if you don't watch it, you start showing off. And then you're not as good any more. " (Salinger Jerome David,1951). Caulfield does not like this "showing off": in Elkton Hills, the hero had no difficulties, but he resigned from the school, "primarily because he was surrounded by phonies. They were coming in the goddam window. " (Salinger Jerome David,1951). It angered the boy very much. He does not like dastard people as his neighbor in the dorm, Robert Ackley. This senior, who studied at Pencey for four years, annoys Caulfield by his slovenliness, but especially by his insincerity and treachery: "He always said it like he was terrifically bored or terrifically tired. He didn't want you to think he was visiting you or anything. He wanted you to think he'd come in by mistake, for God's sake. ... Such persons as Ackley adore to be given a look as a man is knocked on the head with a rock or something: he just laughes till his sides ache." (Salinger Jerome David,1951).
Holden does not like people who strive to adapt, arrange for someone else's expense, like Stradlater who asks Caulfield to write an essay for him. But, nevertheless, theb hero of JD Salinger is neither selfish nor misanthrope. Even physical aversion to Ackley and Spencer did not prevent him from feeling a sincere human compassion to them.
In the story of Holden Caulfield there is no narcissism. Conversely, he often judges himself with greater impartiality and categoricity than others. He frankly admits that he likes to invent, to roll the fool. But his lie has nothing to do with the common lie, which he hates so much. Caulfield has a violent fantasy, and this gives a teenager possibility, albeit temporarily, to escape from reality, in which he feels so uncomfortable.
The need to obey the "general laws" extremely depresses the main character. "If you want to live with people you have to talk all" (Salinger Jerome David,1951) - Holden recognizes with annoyance and is deeply affected by this universal deceit, distrust and hopelessness of his ambition to build the life on the sincere and fair relationship. Caulfield does not quite imagine what he wants to achieve in his life and how to do it, but he is sure that in the world of adults life values are shifted. For him, the adult world into which he will enter, is immoral, deceitful, and therefore unacceptable. In response to the question of his younger sister Phoebe, "who would you like to be? Maybe a scholar, or a lawyer, or even someone else", Holden, flatly rejected the chance to become a scientist, argues: "Lawyers are all right, I guess-but it doesn't appeal to me,» I said. «I mean they're all right if they go around saving innocent guys' lives all the time, and like that, but you don't do that kind of stuff if you're a lawyer. All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink Martinis and look like a hot-shot. And besides. Even if you did go around saving guys' lives and all, how would you know if you did it because you really wanted to save guys' lives, or because you did it because what you really wanted to do was be a terrific lawyer, with everybody slapping you on the back and congratulating you in court when the goddam trial was over, the reporters and everybody, the way it is in the dirty movies? How would you know you weren't being a phony? The trouble is, you wouldn't" (Salinger Jerome David,1951).
Unwillingness to adjust to the normal midle-bourgeois level, to adapt to the "sham reality and environmental lies, discord with the public about the main values in life doom Caulfield to the loneliness. He has no friends (having arrived to New York, he had long stood in a phone booth, but had not figured out whom to call), there is no real home - his family lives on the common law, based on cold calculation, measures life by commonly accepted standards. This solitude oppresses hero. He strives to live human contact, talks to taxi drivers, with random or unfamiliar people. But, unfortunately, all these conversations and meetings end with either nothing, causing embarrassment, like a conversation with the nuns in the station buffet, or lead to the quarrel, as it was in the case with Sally Hayes. Rendezvous with the teacher Antolini ended by unfortunate misunderstanding, and a conversation with the hotel elevator operator, by the scandal.
And yet, a sympathetic nature of Caulfield is that he never remains indifferent to the people encountered, they seem to become a part of him. In the end the hero recognizes that he "lacks" all of them, he loves all of them, and especially - children (and his brother Allie soon departed from life, and all the children at all). Caulfield sees his vocation in "keeping watch over the children above the abyss in the rye." "I know it's crazy, - he says, - but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy. " (Salinger Jerome David,1951). Of course, Holden Caulfield is not stupid, he is just above the abyss himself, he experiences his adulthood too painfully. William Faulkner explains the hero in the following way: "a young Holden Caulfield is the most susceptible and resistant person in the circle of his peers - he is failing in the attempt to connect to the human race. For where he hoped to discover the humanity, it was not. " (Magill, Frank N.,1991). "Familiar places" can not give the young hero what he seeks, and thus he perceives his transition into adult life as the flight into an unknown, "awful" and "dangerous" abyss.
In the novel "The Catcher in the Rye" the postwar America appeared to us, when the slogans of the day were acquisitiveness, consumerism, the pursuit of selfish comfort. Salinger's hero was the first to accuse the American society of immorality, hypocrisy, complacency, lack of humanity. The protest of personality against the social apathy and conformity, expressed in Salinger's novel, in its time produced something like a revolution in public consciousness, but the problems raised by the writer are still relevant today, and that's because the interest to the novel is still high at the widest possible audience.
Salinger criticizes the conformism of Americans, revising the stable motif of "American Dream". In contrast to the townsfolk, his heroes are nonconformists, people feeling fine, sincere, spiritually lonely, who feel a deep rift not only in the family but also in society. Holden Caulfield, a sixteen-year old hero of Salinger's first novel, painfully endures false both at home and at school. Unwillingness to adjust to the routine, false rules, youthful maximalism do not allow Holden to adapt to the surrounding realities.
The pathos of negation of the hero is more significant than the pathos of approval, because Holden does not want to redo anything, he looks for quiet refuge, and sees his own vocation in warning children of growing up. The world of an undisturbed childhood is declared in the novel as the true one, while the pragmatic world of adults forms the space of the fake life, in which Holden does not want to move. The search for the lost sense, truth, purity, "ignorance" are painful for the hero, Holden's riot is introvert - this is a dissociation from public rights and obligations.
Salinger's narrative style in his first novel is stylized as a fragmentary, subjective speech of a teenager. Lyrical confession, trembling and open, gives the reader from inside the internal state of Holden. The distance between the hero and the recipient is reduced, the author does not intrude actively into the narrative, he is present in its structure. At the same time an intimate circle of a protagonist is formed, in which the reader is admitted.
In 1964 the manual for schools and colleges "J. D. Salinger: Catcher in the Rye " by Richard Lettis was published, where the author examines the work of Salinger applying the sociological terminology and using also the aesthetic categories of existentialism. (LETTIS, RICHARD,1964). The image of Holden Caulfield R. Lettis explores in two aspects - the influence of society on the hero and the hero's influence on society, seeing for Holden the possibility for choice. He can reject the society, to try to improve it or to accept it. Holden, according to Lettis, chooses from these options the worst one - rejects of society, whereas most of his contemporaries do not also follow the best, conformist ways. The author sees an optimal variant in the struggle for the betterment of society, based, however, on the motto of the fight "without hope of success." "Holden's defeat teaches the need for and the price of victory," says Lettis .- The need to strive, despite all our imperfections, to such society, where Holden Caulfield would be able to grow and prosper, seek to such environment that would teach him a necessarity of evil, deceit and even despair ... "