Who Banned Catcher in the Rye and Why? | Teen Ink

Who Banned Catcher in the Rye and Why?

December 5, 2012
By santipr BRONZE, Melbourne Beach, Florida
santipr BRONZE, Melbourne Beach, Florida
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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.”).

Works Cited
"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)>.

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This article has 15 comments.

on Feb. 23 2020 at 10:42 pm
FlexibleGarlicTray, Bruh City, Alabama
0 articles 0 photos 1 comment
yo cheel

Jack said...
on Mar. 28 2018 at 12:49 am
Wtf are you talking about

Jack said...
on Mar. 28 2018 at 12:49 am
Wtf are you talking about

on Mar. 7 2018 at 10:45 pm
No that's the stupidest shit I've ever heard you fat fuck face pussy

Loucyndi said...
on Dec. 25 2017 at 9:52 pm
Do you believe President Donald Trump has made this type of so called rebellious behavior more acceptable behavior for not only teenagers but for all agers?

Ken M said...
on Oct. 20 2016 at 2:27 pm
All books should be banned hehe xd x

on Oct. 4 2016 at 10:31 pm
So is this book considered important because the word "fuck" is used or does it have some good ideas?

olyaj said...
on Aug. 21 2016 at 7:56 pm
it's funny... in reality, this book is probably the polar opposite of communist, in the truest sense of the word. The whole goddamn (wink) book is about Holden's rebellion and inability to conform to society's standards, which exudes an individualistic spirit. communism is all for the supposed, (stress on the word supposed), "greater good" through forcing everyone to conform to the same kind of life. It really makes me laugh when people find this book "communist".

lotiq said...
on Apr. 27 2016 at 11:33 am
Funny that some groups considered the book communist, yet the book has been banned in several schools.

lotiq said...
on Apr. 27 2016 at 11:33 am
Funny that some groups considered the book communist, yet the book has been banned in several schools.

on Oct. 12 2015 at 2:35 pm
sarahconte BRONZE, VENTNOR CITY, New Jersey
4 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"If a body catch a body running in the rye."

My favorite book ever!

Ayyy lmao said...
on Apr. 8 2015 at 2:42 pm
I disagree, I'm 16 from a middle class family in Florida and we've just started reading this book as an assignment in my english teacher. Being only 10 chapters in, I can relate more to Holden more than I can to almost any other character in other popular books. He got flunked out of his schools (His own doing) because he wasn't happy in the environment they provided. I can relate to this as I don't enjoy the environment my schools have provided thus far. He chose to drink and smoke. While I don't drink or smoke, this is a very minor habit I can overlook and move past. There's nothing offensive about it, they're just things people do. He chose to treat everyone around him like dirt? I guess you could say that, but you're really stretching it with this one. He's a teenager in a private school full of other middle to upper class kids, they all treat each other like dirt, it's really no surprise. In the book, Akley or Stradlater treated him just as poorly as he treated them. He didn't confront his parents when he got kicked out of Pencey because he didn't have to confront them (Only at chapter 10) so as far as I'm aware, he's still waiting until Wednesday to do that. He wanted them to find out from the letter and let it sink in, he didn't leave Pencey early so he could go straight back, he went to New York and got a hotel room so he could wait until they got the letter. Just like some students would skip a class until the teacher or school faculty call their parents to let their parents know that they're skipping before actually telling their parents themselves. It's a bit cowardly, but relatable none the less. I've enjoyed this book very much so far and have been reading it anytime I have the spare time since I got it around 2:30 PM yesterday. I don't need to go to a private school to relate, I've been going to a public school all my life and don't see how the fact that it takes place in a private school has anything to do with it. Our public education isn't as bad as people make it out to be, or at least that's how I feel anyways. Maybe that's because it's a part of my normal day though. I'm going off on a bit of a tangent, sorry. Regardless, you may not think this book is important in schools today, but it's been banned for the most part up until now and even 60 years after it was published, I feel like I can relate to it far more than I can relate to almost any other book we've been asked to read in and outside of the classroom.

iamme said...
on Mar. 28 2015 at 8:12 am
Personally I loved the book. Not until I finished it though. I just couldn't stop thinking about that stupid story after I put the book down. It's clearly not controversial by todays standards of course but then that's not the point is it? Yes Holden IS unlikable, I think he's a snobby spoilt brat, but that's still not the point. I think anyone who is judging the book by the main characters merits is missing the point to the story. It is a great literary piece and more people should read it.

on Nov. 12 2014 at 12:21 am
I disagree with maynesly.  My english class recently finished this novel and during a discussion, many of us were able to make personal connections to the way that Holden was feeling or acting.  This novel is still very accurate, at least for my class.  

maynesly said...
on Oct. 17 2014 at 1:36 pm
This book is NOT important. At least, not anymore. This book is taught to teens for no decent reason anymore. He's not relatable to teens today, and South Park was actually more accurate about the profanity than this article. The truth is, the only words that are even widely considered profanity are bitch and fuck. Also, Holden is a very unlikable person to a teen of today. For Christ's sake, he's got an upper middle class life and goes to a freaking private school! If I could live upper middle class and go to private school, I WOULD! Most of the problems in the book are HOLDEN's fault. HE chose to get kicked out of those schools, HE chose to drink and smoke, HE chose to treat everyone around him like dirt, HE chose to order a prostitute, and HE didn't confront his parents when he got kicked out of Pencey! Also, most teens would likely prefer a private school because, HAVE YOU SEEN OUR PUBLIC EDUCATION?! So, NO. This book IS NOT important to schools today and should no longer be taught.