Holden and the Canon: Evaluating the Aesthetic and Classic Status of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ Eve McMullen 12th Grade

J.D Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has actually been controversial given that its release in 1951. Its concentrate on crude and sexual subject matter suggests it was banned in many locations, even in some American schools today. Functions in the canon, often described as ‘the classics’ are broadly defined as works that, since of their inherent literary value, are ‘routinely in print’, have ‘an agreement of academics, historians and instructors’ and ‘are studied for school assessments’ [1] ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ has actually consistently been in the leading 100 books given that its publication, but has struggled to gain either an agreement amongst critics or a credible academic following. This essay shall explore what has held ‘Catcher’ back from canonical status, regardless of its broad and long-standing appeal, and whether it is the text or the canon itself that should come under question. [1] Crucial Anthology- Area 6

Critics who dismiss ‘Catcher in the Rye’ have usually done so due to the fact that they consider the composing to be simplified or unrefined. Canonical texts are normally anticipated to be ‘aesthetic’ and for that reason ‘Elegant, amusing, patterned, managed.’ [1] Some critics will especially highlight that ‘Writers do not just choose ‘ordinary’ words, like the words we utilize for discussion.’2 It is perhaps in this light that Catcher falls down, as the narration often uses an informal sociolect with blasphemy and slang like ‘godamn’, aswell as unsophisticated substance adjectives like ‘pimpy-looking’ developing an unrefined style for the text. On the other hand this is accompanied by sophisticated language gadgets throughout the unique, which has lots of recurrent metaphors and symbolism. One example is the ‘duck pond’ in New York: ‘You understand those ducks because lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any opportunity, do you take place to understand where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over?’. Not just does his repeated questioning about the ducks indicate his curious child-like nature, however it likewise symbolises to Holden what he desires- impermanent change- that the ducks return every Spring. This exhibits literary gadgets in the book which, although simplified in presentation, demonstrate aesthetic themes woven into the structure, therefore raising the apparent ‘value’ of the writing. [1] Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Abilities for Trainees of English Literature by M. Montgomery- Crucial Anthology

On the other hand, however, we may think about that the literary worth of ‘Catcher’ can be discovered in this ‘simplistic or unrefined’ language too. Making use of a vernacular which does not conform to official or literary English probably includes worth to the text due to the fact that, through his repeated concepts of ‘phony’, ‘madman’ or ‘godamn’, Holden constructs his special idiolect. This helps him to assert his own particular cult of individualism, which the novel inspired in popular culture too, using language and tone to produce imagery for the character himself and thus showing one of the dominant themes in the novel through linguistic self-isolation and individualism. We may for that reason deduce that, although there are definitely typically visual aspects in Salinger’s work, there is, in dispute with literary agreement, worth to be found in the ‘unrefined’ elements of Caulfield’s composing too.

Another expected requirement for ‘classics’ is that they stand the ‘test of time’, largely because their topic is ruled out ephemeral or business however ‘for all time’, notably ‘they are unlikely to be at the very same time texts which go over specific political concerns’2. Even before going into the debate however, it is essential to recognise that lots of classics when initially produced were undoubtedly commercial, be it Shakespeare or Dickens. ‘Catcher in the Rye’ comes under prospective criticism here as ephemeral and potentially politicised as it might be considered too symptomatic of the angsty 1950s period in which it was set and written. To a level this is true since the novel was composed at the beginning of counter-cultural revolt culminating in the 1960s and aspects such as Caulfield’s time at a ‘prep school’ and flunking all subjects other than imaginative writing are autobiographical of Salinger, who is known for concerning himself specifically as an outsider. Sociologists in the 50s started to fear the ‘homogenisation’ of culture, with Riesman warning of an ‘other-directed’ man [1] who conforms to society. For Holden, the motif ‘bogus’ covers whatever in society that validates his isolation from it ‘Among the biggest factors I left Elkton Hills was since I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddam window’- linking his mental illness with the appropriate social sickness in the 50’s conformist, materialist culture. This implies that maybe the counter-cultural, isolationist and individualistic elements of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ are in truth inherently related to issues rooted in the author or period and therefore less significant ‘for all time’. [1] The Catcher in the Rye: The Voice of Alienation by Timothy Aubry, assistant teacher of English at Baruch College, The City University of New York- http://alanreinstein.com/site/213_Catcher_files/voice.of.alienation.aubry.pdf

Nevertheless, lots of have seen ‘Catcher in the Rye’ as being important in its subject-matter as it assisted establish, through Salinger’s innovative nearly anti-bildungsroman type, a brand-new genre in the teenage point of view. It has actually been said by critics that ‘It is the very first book of the modern-day teenage years.’ and that ‘There is a strong dialogue in between the book and the teenage experience- they are mutually shaping.’ [1] Indeed, the angsty tone and unreliable narrative help to catch something of the, formerly unacknowledged, ‘teen spirit’. Holden is the best allegory for holding onto childhood and innocence through the teenage experience- helping develop worth. One element of this is the reoccurring psychological analepsis concerning his brother Allie: ‘He’s dead now. He got leukemia and passed away when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You ‘d have liked him. He was two years more youthful than I was, however he had to do with fifty times as intelligent. He was remarkably intelligent. His instructors were always composing letters to my mom, informing her what an enjoyment it was having a kid like Allie in their class.’ Holden was 13 when he died, substantially the start of the age of puberty, thus helping to build an allegory in which Holden’s longing for Allie pertains to symbolise his longing for childhood. Similarly, the book’s titular extended metaphor in which Holden describes his perfect life as ‘the catcher in the rye’- ‘What I need to do, I need to catch everyone if they begin to review the cliff– I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and capture them. That’s all I ‘d do throughout the day. I ‘d just be the catcher in the rye and all.’ Using the pastoral refuge images shows Holden’s desire to return to a much better time where he stops kids falling off ‘cliff enjoys adulthood and experience. Such a style is seen constantly in the unique, including later on in the ‘Natural History Museum’- ‘The very best thing, however, in that museum was that whatever constantly remained right where it was. Nobody ‘d move. You might go there a hundred thousand times’- representing his deep longing for things to remain as they were. These demonstrate not only recognized and moving literary techniques, including worth, however likewise a central theme of such value that it assisted establish a genre. The teenage experience is a significant aspect of life generally and for that reason Catcher not just stands the test of time however likewise brings something new and required to the ‘classics’. [1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8084931.stm – Dr. Graham (Leicester University)

Both the preceding points of genre and language raised concerns about what offers ‘value’, about how we specify and assign literary worth. Barthes raises this issue in his work, where he explores the concept of ‘readerly’ and ‘writerly’ texts [1], each deriving their value from different forms of satisfaction. The canon, consisting of mainly ‘writerly’ literature is about challenging the reader and producing something creatively beautiful. ‘Readerly’ texts on the other hand supply pleasure to the reader by immersing them in another world or individual’s story, the reader might forget that they are in truth reading, and language might not be as complex or patterned. The informal direct address utilized by Holden, for example, such as ‘I’ll simply inform you about this madman stuff’, pulling us into his world and including us in his superior viewpoint, or the angst-ridden tone mirroring teen’s inner disputes, have just as much worth to a customer, regardless of canonical ‘visual’. It is for that reason worth thinking about alternative theories of literary value such as Barthes’s when choosing whether ‘Catcher in the Rye’ has a place in the canon, particularly in appreciating both its apparent ‘readerly’ and ‘writerly’ aspects. [1] Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Skills for Student of English Literature by M.Montgomery- Critical Anthology

Possibly one observable failing in ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is that ‘Plot remains in short supply.’ [1] It’s supposed to form ‘complex patterns or structures’ [2], and is perhaps a crucial factor even in developing ‘readerly’ value as it develops intriguing storylines. Typically there are narrative gaps in Holden’s stories, in some cases left unconcluded with a relatively cyclical arc, leaving readers without a sense of resolution or explanation- ‘That’s all I’m going to inform you about. I could most likely inform you what I did after I went house, and how I got ill and all, and what school I’m expected to go to next fall, after I get out of here, however I do not seem like it.’ It is easy to feel as though absolutely nothing of effect took place in this book. Another reading of the text however, is that the story is a psychological one, instead of a more solid product one, in line with its speculative anti-bildungsroman kind. Although the text just covers 3 days of Holden’s life it feels substantially longer due to the lack of unique sequential markers and even the lack of constant paragraphing, with some anecdotes babbling on for several pages. These however are exceptional structural images for an inner monologue. The distortion of time and lack of incentive or instructions in plot might be attended to by the truth that this shows Holden himself, who in his depressed and weakening mindset does not have all of these things. It does, undoubtedly then, in this psychoanalytical reading ‘kind complex patterns and structures, either being echoed by other concepts in the text or reaffirmed in the type of basic styles.’ 7 taking us on a journey through the unstable mind. [1] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8084931.stm – BBC Publication Why does Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye still resonate?, created 5/6/05 [2] Ways of Reading: Advanced Reading Abilities for Student of English Literature by M.Montgomery- Vital Anthology

Total then, an expedition of basic literary features such as type, plot and language, shows how ‘Catcher’ satisfies many of the aesthetic ‘conditions’ for literary value through advanced devices and complex, consistent themes. This holds true even if the presentation of them is unconventional within the recognized canon. Remarkably, Holden’s main themes resonate with canonised heroes of American literature like Gatsby or Huckleberry; be it the social expert turned prisoner, the distinct idiolect or the Romantic’s legacy of innocence battling experience. The text does nevertheless raise concerns about how we assign value to literature such as whether politicised topic has a place or whether readers’ pleasure is as crucial as visual worth. It’s beneficial keeping in mind that the canon can be criticised as a group of texts selected by ruling elites, middle classes or older generations of critics and it’s for that reason extremely reasonable to think about these alternative elements when talking about value. ‘Catcher in the Rye’ certainly gain from such a discussion as the dissident narrator, the nonstandard vernacular and the individual form all include worth in spite of all being points of possible criticism too. It is through a combination of conformist and alternative literary value that ‘Catcher in the Rye’ belongs within the canon, maybe most pertinently through its efforts to not be a ‘timeless’.


A-Level English Literature B Crucial Anthology by AQA, Cambridge University Press 2015 http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/magazine/8084931.stm – BBC Magazine Why does Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye still resonate?, developed 5/6/05 https://study.com/academy/lesson/why-is-the-catcher-in-the-rye-a-classic.html%20-%20lesson– Study.com Why is Catcher in the Rye a Classic? https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/catcher/context.html – SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Catcher in the Rye.” Context, accessed 20/07/17 http://studentacademichelp.blogspot.co.uk/2009/05/catcher-in-rye-holden-caulfield-and.html – An essay from Academic Help, The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield and American Protest, created 21/5/09 http://alanreinstein.com/site/213_Catcher_files/voice.of.alienation.aubry.pdf – The Catcher in the Rye: The Voice of Alienation by Timothy Aubry, assistant teacher of English at Baruch College, The City University of New York, The Guilder Lehrman Institute of American History

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