For my book choice today, I’ve chosen my all time favorite, The Catcher in the Rye. To celebrate my love for this book, I am sharing an opinion article I wrote a few years ago regarding why this novel should not be banned. Enjoy!
Since the late 1950’s to the early 1960’s, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger has been deemed a highly controversial novel. Despite the novel being a phenomenon, many parents as well as teachers can’t fathom the idea of teenagers reading a novel with a rebellious negative role model like Holden Caulfield. Some people believe that the novel should be banned from schools because of Caulfield’s profanity, promiscuity and acts of rebellion which could influence teens negatively. However, others argue that the novel presents real-life problems that young adults can relate to and learn from. The Catcher in the Rye is a classic novel that should not be banned because of the life lessons it teaches teens.
Salinger’s intent was to publish the book for adults. However teenagers were captivated by the life and adventure of Holden Caulfield. The novel highlights the troubles of identity and purpose; a phase where many teenagers are lost and wait to be found. When I first picked up a copy of the novel, I had no idea what I was in for. I was about thirteen or fourteen, an eighth grader looking for adventure. I had heard of several adults telling me that the book was inappropriate for my age and I should read something more suitable. I ignored that white noise and became absorbed in Caulfield’s world. Every problem he had encountered was relatable (or would be in the future). This novel did not contain anything offensive, at least nothing offensive for me. I couldn’t understand why adults were discouraging kids from reading this book. I stood in the back of my eighth grade history class among other classmates waiting for a new seating chart while I clutched the book in the palm of my hand, with my fingernails pinching the cover. My history teacher pointed to empty desks left and right, assigning kids to seats when he noticed the book, pointed at me and said, “The novel Chloe is reading was forbidden to read when I was your age.” Everyone looked at me with curiosity, only to be disappointed that it was not a novel part of the Twilight series. I don’t understand why people think the novel is pretentious when all of Caulfield’s experiences will soon be our own. I think that Caulfield would’ve been less likely to get himself in some sort of predicament compared to society’s lifestyle today. Today we have computers, television, cell phones, internet, and Facebook. In the 1950’s, it was up to the reader and the reader’s imagination to find a book and dive in. Teenagers then used to depend on books to act as an escape.Today we have to depend on media to escape from what? All the things we try to run away from are right there in front of us because we have become so vulnerable, so needy to the aspect of social networking, that we’ve forgotten to do. Holden Caulfield takes young adults back to simpler times. All the obstacles that he faces are the same, but without all the drama from the media.
Every accusation against Caulfield’s character is hypocritical, because we’ve all lived through those experiences too. I think a little rebellion, promiscuity and profanity lives in all of us, even if we want to admit it or not. I believe Salinger wanted to create a protagonist that readers could relate too. That’s why Holden Caulfield was created. And since Caulfield is so easy to relate to, why are readers discouraged to read the novel? I know parents don’t want their kids being involved in drinking, doing drugs, or having sex; but for some teenagers, that’s part of growing up. Parents can’t act like they live in a perfect world as much as they want, but their ignorance is bliss; what they don’t know won’t hurt them. I think a little bit of Caulfield lives in all of us. That dancer there has some promiscuity, that lawyer in the courthouse has some profanity, that teacher cleaning his board is rebellious; Caulfield’s ways are bottled up inside all of us. His morals have taught us that it is okay to act like a kid again, once we have become tired of being an adult.
I’d like to think that the novel educates teens for the purpose of awareness and well-being. Teenagers constantly remind adults that they know everything. The Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield has the same insecurities. Characters like Holden Caulfield are easy to love because he is a relatable guy. Not just for his similarity in age with readers but because of his independent journey on his own through college. Caulfield encounters the trauma and reality faced with being responsible and independent; no matter what the extremity of the situation is. I remember how much Caulfield would make me laugh in moments where he overanalyzed or believed that certain failures would be the end of the world. His character was easy to laugh at because I am the same way. It all seemed so silly to try so desperately to be an adult when you continue to act like a child. I think the novel contains growin experiences for Caulfield; as well as for the readers who watch Caulfield grow.
It seems rather obvious as to why other writers would be furious that Caulfield was compared to other legendary protagonists, but that was the 50’s. Times have changed, and profanity and promiscuity have become a part of our day to day life in today’s society. We can’t continue to act like we live in a bubble or a perfect world. Teenagers should have the right to read whatever they want to- well you know for the kids who still read, (let’s face it, it’s a lost art). The Catcher in the Rye, including other famously banned novels should not be banned. What harm can books do? The reader’s job is to interpret the story how they want to; their imagination is what makes the story come to life. I don’t care if the novel revolves around certain topics like sex, drugs or drinking I think it’s completely hypocritical that teenagers can watch shows like Teen Mom and Jersey Shore, but when it comes to The Catcher in the Rye, the novel should be banned, burned or discouraged. The truth is, reading is what inspires people. Authors, novels, and characters open up an entire world for readers that they would have never known existed if they hadn’t picked up a book. The Catcher in the Rye is a novel that opens teenagers up to the world that they’ll experience as they grow up.
The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most famously banned books among many. But for what reason? I believe that the novel should not be banned or discouraged from kids who are eager to live Caulfield’s adventure. How else is the novel supposed to be a classic if it’s not to be read?