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Catcher in the Rye, The

a novel by J. D. Salinger, published in 1951. The novel is narrated in lively vernacular by the 16-year-old Holden Caulfield, agileminded, maverick, imaginative, and a boarder at an expensive prep school, Pencey. We see him leaving the school he disliked and going to New York City, where, dreading a confrontation with his parents (very distant figures throughout the novel) he checks into a cheap hotel. Here he accepts the elevator operator's offer of a whore for the night. Holden is, as he tells us, a virgin; indeed, it later transpires that for him virginity is a ‘good’, a revulsion against sex being an important constituent of his vision of life. He cannot perform with the whore, and her pimp demands more money and assaults Holden. The next day he makes unsatisfactory encounters with an old girlfriend and with his adored younger sister Phoebe, and spends the night at the home of one of the few adults for whom he has any regard; the man makes furtive homosexual advances to him. Holden decides to run away West, but realization of his love for Phoebe stays him, and he suffers a kind of breakdown of which writing this novel is a therapy. The character of Holden fills and animates the entire novel, to such a degree that it is not surprising he became widely adopted as a role-model for so many readers. While it is possible to find inconsistencies in Holden's viewpoint, it is impossible to deny both the reality and the power of Holden himself and the literary virtuosity and integrity with which he is presented. This unusually affecting novel has become a testament and an inspiration for generations of readers all over the world. Certain of its phrases and epiphanies have passed already into Western folklore.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Henry Carey Biography to Chekhov Biography