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Who Banned Catcher in the Rye and Why?
J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, by some is considered one of the greatest books of all time, is also very controversial. It has been banned or challenged in many schools throughout the United States, but is still taught at many others as a classic. The Catcher in the Rye tells a very complex and deep story of an interesting teenager, but has some very crude parts. So who banned The Catcher in the Rye and why?
Who is Holden Caulfield? He can be described as a teenager, a madman, or the epitome of vulgar. More importantly, he is the main character of J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye ("The Catcher in the Rye.") The Catcher in the Rye tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a rebellious teenager facing psychological trouble. Expelled from his school at 16, he goes on a journey to New York City. On his journey, he faces alcoholism, constant cigarette smoking, and emotional breakdowns. Holden is really just a typical teenager: rash, angry, and ignorant ("The Praises and Criticisms of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye."). He rejects middle class values, and really does whatever he wants. Some compare him to Mark Twain’s famous character Huck Finn, another literary icon. Holden talks in 50’s slang and uses quite vulgar language ("The Catcher in the Rye: Context."). Holden’s story, in a way, retold Salinger’s life. The book includes references to Salinger’s school and personal life. Salinger received much praise for this book, but eventually decided to life his life in seclusion. Holden stands as a sort of icon for teenagers everywhere. Teenagers lived their own fantasies within the pages of the book. An adventure in New York City is definitely something a teenager could dream of.
But what is so controversial about a teenager and his adventure? Well, Holden’s adventure is quite controversial. Holden has a very peculiar way of communicating, and it is not censored in any way. The book contains cuss word after cuss word, followed by some immoral statements about phonies. There are rarely sentences that do not have a cuss word. It was banned or challenged countless times, for its profanity alone ("Banned Books Awareness: “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger."). The profanity varies from minor swearing to levels as high as the F-word. But it is not just the actual language that got the book banned; it is what Holden was actually saying. Holden uses God’s name in vain and does blasphemous acts all through out the book. He also says statements against minorities, women, and the disabled .
But if The Catcher in the Rye only contained vulgar language, it would not be as controversial as it is. In 1987, it was banned in a high school in North Dakota for its sexual references ("Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century."). The book has multiple scenes and references to prostitution and premarital sex. In 1992, it was banned in a high school in Illinois for its alcohol abuse. Holden does hold a particular liking to drinking. In the two nights he is in New York, he is intoxicated a good portion of the time. Being he is only 16, and back then the drinking age was 18, he was indeed drinking underage. In 1985, it was banned in a high school in Florida simply for being “unacceptable”. But what is interesting is that in many occurrences, after the book was banned, it was later reinstated. That is how important this book is. Not even its vulgar language or violence can stop teachers from teaching this American classic, and teenagers living the life of Holden Caulfield ("The Catcher in the Rye."). It has become and always will be such an important book in American literature, that banning it is just keeping students away from one of the best books ever written. The book although has received some very bad public reputation for a very real, very violent action. In December of 1980, Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon, caught with an annotated copy of The Catcher in the Rye. He claims he shot John Lennon because he was being a phony, which is a word and topic repeated frequently in the book. Although it is unfair to blame the book for John Lennon’s assassination, his death is still unfortunately tied to the book.
Although The Catcher in the Rye is one of the most controversial books ever written, it is still taught in many English classes all around the United States, and is still loved by many teenagers and adults for its rebellious characteristics. It was banned for its profanity, sexual content, and violence by many schools from the 60’s to the present. But many schools have reinstated the book, recognizing its literary importance. 35 Million copies were sold in total, and a quarter of a million copies are sold every year (“Year in books: J.D. Salinger by the numbers.”).
"Banned and/or Challenged Books from the Radcliffe Publishing Course Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century." American Library Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://www.ala.org/advocacy/banned/frequentlychallenged/challengedclassics/reasonsbanned>.
"Banned Books Awareness: “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger." World. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://world.edu/banned-book-awareness-catcher-rye-jd-salinger/>.
"Board Bans 'Catcher in the Rye' From High School English Class." Los Angeles Times. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://articles.latimes.com/1989-09-12/local/me-2089_1_school-board>.
"The Catcher in the Rye." Gale. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2012. <http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CCX3425100427&v=2.1&u=melb49911&it=r&p=GPS&sw=w Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3425100427>.
"The Catcher in the Rye: Context." Sparknotes. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/catcher/context.html>.
"The Praises and Criticisms of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye." Tep Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://www.tep-online.info/konkret/novel/jds/salinger1.htm>.
"Why J.D. Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' still provokes book bans." Crosscut. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Nov. 2012. <http://crosscut.com/2010/03/19/books/19669/Why-JD-Salingers-Catcher-in-Rye-still-provokes-boo/>.
"Year in books: J.D. Salinger by the numbers." USA Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Nov. 2012. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/books/news/2010-12-23-salingeryearend23_ST_N.htm?csp=34life&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+UsatodaycomBooks-TopStories+(Life+-+Books+-+Top+Stories)>.