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The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye Themes

Little Words, Big Ideas

Innocence

Holden is a sex maniac. Trust him: he says it himself. But… really? The boy’s a virgin, and he can’t even bring himself to have sex with a prostitute—someone who literally does it for money...

Mortality

You’d expect a seventeen-year-old boy to be a lot more interested in sex than death, but… not Holden. Can you blame him? His younger brother died of leukemia four years before we meet him. He w...

Youth

Holden loves kids, but not in a creepy way. Really. He just thinks they’re cute little bundles of hilarious innocence: genuine, caring, and naturally kindhearted. In contrast, adults are “phony...

Isolation

If we had a dollar for every time our parents told us to just wait until we got to college, and then we’d find all kind of people to be friends with, we’d … have a few dollars. Our point is t...

Sexuality and Sexual Identity

We can’t tell if Holden would be the kid in our class sneaking in his dad’s Playboy (do dads even subscribe to Playboy anymore?) or the one telling his teacher that someone was looking at a dir...

Sadness

Let’s do some word counting: variations of “depressed” or “depressing” occur 41 times in Catcher in the Rye. “Happy”? Five. As in, you can count them on one hand. Yep, we feel pretty...

Wisdom and Knowledge

If you asked Holden, he’d probably agree that everything he needed to know he learned in kindergarten. To him, institutional education is nothing more than teaching kids how to be phony, how to m...

Lies and Deceit

Let’s do another word count (see “Sadness” for our first one): variations of “phony” occur 47 times in Catcher in the Rye. That’s a lot. Trust us. Phoniness is—well, everything from p...

Madness

Is Holden crazy? Catcher in the Rye begins with a seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield telling his own story of a year earlier, with mentions of his having come "out here" to "rest up." So, how much...

Religion

The Catcher in the Rye treats religion much the same way as it does education. There may be an intrinsic value to it, but who can tell? It's been ruined by institutions and the phony people who run...
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