J. D. Salinger was born in Manhattan in 1919, son of a wealthy importer.
His early years were spent in the fashionable area of New York City where he studied at various prep schools.
His parents finally sent him to the Valley Forge Military Academy and
Salinger went on to fight in World War II, participating in the D-Day landings. On his return, he took a Columbia course in short story writing that propelled his career as an author.
It is clear that many of the events in Salinger’s early life appear in The
Catcher in the Rye. Like Salinger, the main character moves from prep school to prep school, and he knows an older Columbia student.
The Catcher in the Rye is published in 1951 at a time when America was
enjoying new industrial prosperity and the old-fashioned social rules were being unsuccessfully forced on the younger generation.
This environment led to general repression of sexuality, factors which are certainly evident in Holden’s story. The reason why the novel is so popular today is that it can be equally applied to today’s new generation, as it was to the youth of the early 1950’s. All the reader has to do is look past the dated 50’s dialogue.
The success of the book may have come as a shock to Salinger who has become
famous for being a recluse. Since that time he has published very little and his reputation rests almost entirely with this novel.
Salinger has created an American hero in the character of Holden Caulfield and perhaps reluctantly the
book’s fame has elevated Salinger to a similar position.