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Caulfield Causes Controversy

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People ban books because of morals, religion, sexual content, language, or political reasons. However, often times deeper meanings exist behind banned books. Books can make someone cry, reunite with a lover, or in extreme cases kill another person. The impact a book can have is huge, and that is why some people, scared of the change a book may bring, ban them.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is one of the most banned books in American history. The impact of this book in the 1950’s hit like an atomic bomb, but due to the conformity of the era, the book was challenged in more ways than one. The Catcher in the Rye is an important life lesson for many teenagers and has brought more positive change than a negative change unto the nation.  

The 50’s was a time of post war, books on how to be a better housewife, and constant paranoia that anything new or out of the ordinary was communist. The Catcher in the Rye was quite a statement in a time such as this. The book challenged almost every ideal that people in the 50’s considered correct. Holden Caulfield, the protagnoist and narrator, hates school, he uses vulgar language, he smokes, and he challenges the world and calls out the “phoniness” of it. For some like Elizabeth Frank, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Bard College, she was grateful to the Catcher in the Rye for, “helping us put a name to all those intuitions we had that something was terribly wrong with civilization in America at that time.”

For some, they were not so appreciative of the new challenges the book had brought into the world. The Catcher in the Rye is the second most taught book in America but also the most banned. Some would say the book is banned for language, rebellion, and scenes about prostitution, but is that   why schools flipped when the book was published? Gish Jen, a writer for New Republic magazine said, “Never mind that Holden is white, male, straight, sophisticated, rich, and a product of the ’40s; he personifies anguished resistance to ’50s America–indeed, for many, America’s truest self.”  

I believe the book was so widely banned in the 50’s because adults were scared of the teenage rebellion the book might bring. The book challenged many things schools were trying to prevent at the time and challenged the idea that in the 50’s all children are basically raised to grow up into a fully-functioning member of society. As Morris Dickstein said, “The Catcher in the Rye “is not a growing-up novel but a not-growing-up novel.” Holden loves children, especially his sister Phoebe. Holden is obsessed with things staying the same- he never wants to move on. He envies children because of their innocence and he wants to protect them from the “lousy and phony” world that he has come to know.

The Catcher in the Rye has been claimed to be a book every high schooler should read before going into life. It has also been tried for spreading “communist ideas” and creating a bad influence on teenagers because of “course language and amateur swearing,” said Catholic World Magazine. However, The Catcher in the Rye has brought many great things to our country. The book itself has sold over 65 million copies and influenced thousands of people. Holden Caulfield will always remain a symbol of rebellion and nonconformity. The book had many ups and downs throughout the years, but it remains one of the top selling books in America. Ultimately, the life lessons taught through the book are timeless and will always be relatable to teenagers and adults.

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Lewis Cass High School, Walton, Indiana,
Caulfield Causes Controversy