Every year, libraries across the U.S. are challenged by readers with objections about books who do not conform to the political, religious or moral codes of the day.

In particular, one book that is banned from many shelves is J.D. Salinger’s ode to the rebellious, angst-fueled teenage years, “The Catcher in the Rye.”

“The Catcher in the Rye” has served as a firestorm for controversy and debate ever since its publication in 1951. Many have criticized the moral battles confronted by Holden Caulfield in the book and the context in which they are presented.

The main argument presented to the American Library Association is the sexuality, prostitution, obscenities, profanity and alcohol consumption featured in the book.

From a literary perspective, this novel remains a staple in many high school curriculums due to its generation transcending themes and symbolism.

Caulfield’s self-destructive tendencies force one to contemplate society’s attitude toward the human condition. Salinger’s portrayal of Caufield includes several different elements that integrate the human condition not only in the 1950s, but throughout other time periods as well. Some of these incidents include depression, a nervous breakdown, the loss of innocence, sexual exploration, vulgarity and other erratic behavior.

Jan Susina is a professor in the ISU English department and has a profound interest in adolescent literature. He believes that “The Catcher in the Rye” marks the beginning of counter culture.

“This novel depicted the alienated youth of the culture in the 1950s. It still talks to teenagers today. It is a book about maturation. When a teenager is on the threshold of realizing their innocence and moving on into experiential living,” Susina said.

“The Catcher in the Rye” is often challenged for Caulfield’s actions. Parents do not want their children reading novels about teenagers who are purposely unruly and obscene and are constantly questioning authority.

On the contrary, for a work of fiction to transpose a theme or meaning across to an audience, certain elements or characteristics may have to be exaggerated. According to Susina, Caulfield is not meant to be the poster child of the American teen.

Caulfield labels several individuals, primarily adults, “phonies.” It is his catch-all for describing the superficiality, hypocrisy, pretension and shallowness that Caulfield often sees in the world around him. Though oversimplified, Caufield’s observations are not entirely inaccurate.

“The Catcher in the Rye” is written from Caulfield’s perspective, thus creating an unreliable narrator. The reader is witnessing the book from only his eyes. If the reader searches deeper beneath the surface, it is revealed that Salinger was trying to indicate Caulfield is a phony himself. He never introspectively searches his own self for meaning.

He desperately needs human contact and love, but his protective wall of bitterness prevents him from looking for such interaction.

Caulfield aims at stability and truth throughout “The Catcher in the Rye,” but the adult world cannot survive without suspense and lies.

In the end, the merit of books can be questioned, but challenging the accessibility of these works of fiction is unwarranted. People should be allowed to read any book published. “The Catcher in the Rye’ remains a relevant work to youth searching for meaning in a culture they do not identify with.

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