“Theres far more to the censorship issue than a ban on sex and four-letter words. I sometimes think that those of us who need to be the most clearheaded about these matters are planting the very trees that obscure our view of the forest,” says Dorothy Briley. According to Briley, a vast amount more is needed than simply vulgar language and suggestive material to censor a novel. But this is the very reason why J. D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye is frequently being banned from high schools.
To the teenage readers, who are at the transition from childhood to adulthood, the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, who has not quite reached the brink of manhood, becomes the readers hero. The adolescent mind that Salinger portrays so accurately in his novel is one with which most teenagers and readers, at one time or another, could identify. The Catcher in the Rye also contains universal themes that, for teenagers about to shift into adulthood, help young adults better understand the world and other people.
Although it does contain abusive language and sexual connotations, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger should not be censored in high schools because it provides insightful information and relevance to the life of young adults through its realistic situations and themes of acceptance and materialism.
The reader can relate to the realistic situations, such as the scene at the Lunts play, present in the novel. Salinger portrays “real life while he “She saw some jerk she knew on the other side of the lobby. Some guy in one of those very dark gray flannel suits and one of those checkered vests. Strictly Ivy League. Big DealThe worst part was, the jerk had one of those very phony, Ivy League voices, one of those very tired, snobby voices” (127, 128).
The theme of materialism also gives insight to the average teenage reader. Salinger uses clever mockery to illustrate to the reader how inane teenagers act over materialistic objects. This is particularly evident when Holden elaborates about suitcases:The thing is, its really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs if yours are really good ones and theirs arent. You think if theyre intelligent and all, the other person, and have a good sense of humor, that they dont give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do. They really do. Its one of the reasons why I roomed with a stupid bastard like Stradlater. At least his suitcases were as good as mine” (109).
Apparent in this quote, Salinger purposefully makes Holden appear foolish, ridiculing teenagers materialistic nature. Salinger makes a connection to teenagers through the protagonists materialism. Deliberately forcing the teenager to examine his or her own shallowness, Salinger illustrates how Holden and his roommate eventually separate, not because they did not like each other, but because one had inferior suitcases. Not only does the adolescent reader think Holden is asinine and absurd, but the reader also observes the callow and silly need for materialistic items within himself or herself. The theme of materialism in The Catcher in the Rye allows teenagers to witness how senseless their need for materialism is, which is necessary concept for adolescents who are making the transition to adulthood.
Another necessary idea that Salinger presents in the novel is the theme of acceptance. Holden frequently examines his role in society, finding that he is often isolated from adolescents his own age and even, at times, made to feel inadequate. Holden distances himself from his friends and family because of such feelings. In the end, Holden realizes that he does need people to whom he can relate. At the close of the novel, Holden says, “About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about. Even old Stradlater and Ackley, for instance. I think I even miss that goddam Maurice. Its funny. Dont ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everything” (217), letting his emotions of inadequacy and need for acceptance escape. Many teenagers can identify with Holdens feelings, and it is these very sentiments that may lead some teens to a life of solitude and agonizing unhappiness. On the other hand, many young adults fear isolation and loneliness so much that it forces them to conform to societys ideas and perceptions. It is in this way that Holden truly becomes the readers hero. Through his actions and reactions to society and others, Holden demonstrates to the reader the theme of acceptance, illustrated throughout the novel. Holden speaks his mind, which the average teenage reader values highly, but it often forces him to be cut off from society. When Holden conforms to society, he feels an outer air of acceptance from his peers. PLACE SALLY QUOTE HERE. When Holden speaks his mind, he feels isolated and awkward. PLACE QUOTE WHEN HE TELLS SALLY HIS DREAMS HERE. It is through the eyes of the protagonist that the reader can see the downfalls and benefits to going against and conforming to societys will. The universal theme of acceptance in J. D. Salingers The Catcher in the Rye encourages teenagers to really consider societys creeds and to think as an individual, yet it still explains to the reader the need for friendship and family in life. Both of these concepts are essential to the readers development into adulthood.
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