The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye is a 1951 novel
A novel is a book of long narrative in literary prose. The genre has historical roots both in the fields of the medieval and early modern romance and in the tradition of the novella. The latter supplied the present generic term in the late 18th century....

 by J. D. Salinger
J. D. Salinger
Jerome David Salinger was an American author, best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, as well as his reclusive nature. His last original published work was in 1965; he gave his last interview in 1980....

. Originally published for adults, it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage confusion, angst, alienation, language, and rebellion. It has been translated into almost all of the world's major languages
World language
A world language is a language spoken internationally which is learned by many people as a second language. A world language is not only characterized by the number of its speakers , but also by its geographical distribution, and its use in international organizations and in diplomatic relations...

Around 250,000 copies are sold each year, with total sales of more than 65 million books. The novel's protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

 and antihero, Holden Caulfield
Holden Caulfield
Holden Caulfield is the 16-to-17 years old protagonist of author J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. He is universally recognized for his resistance to growing older and desire to protect childhood innocence...

, has become an icon for teenage rebellion.

The novel was included on Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923, and it was named by Modern Library
Modern Library
The Modern Library is a publishing company. Founded in 1917 by Albert Boni and Horace Liveright as an imprint of their publishing company Boni & Liveright, it was purchased in 1925 by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer...

 and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the United States and other countries for its liberal use of profanity
Profanity is a show of disrespect, or a desecration or debasement of someone or something. Profanity can take the form of words, expressions, gestures, or other social behaviors that are socially constructed or interpreted as insulting, rude, vulgar, obscene, desecrating, or other forms.The...

 and portrayal of sexuality
Human sexuality
Human sexuality is the awareness of gender differences, and the capacity to have erotic experiences and responses. Human sexuality can also be described as the way someone is sexually attracted to another person whether it is to opposite sexes , to the same sex , to either sexes , or not being...

 and teenage
Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and mental human development generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood , but largely characterized as beginning and ending with the teenage stage...

 angst. It also deals with complex issues of identity
Identity (social science)
Identity is a term used to describe a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations . The term is used more specifically in psychology and sociology, and is given a great deal of attention in social psychology...

, belonging, connection, and alienation.

Plot summary

The majority of the novel takes place in December 1949. The story commences with Holden Caulfield
Holden Caulfield
Holden Caulfield is the 16-to-17 years old protagonist of author J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. He is universally recognized for his resistance to growing older and desire to protect childhood innocence...

 describing encounters he has had with students and faculty of Pencey Prep (In
addition, scholars often compare Pencey Prep to Valley Forge Military Academy
Valley Forge Military Academy and College
Valley Forge Military Academy & College is an American all male preparatory boarding school and coeducational junior college in the military school tradition...

, which Salinger attended from the ages of 15 to 17) in Agerstown, Pennsylvania . He criticizes them for being superficial, or, as he would say, "phony." After being expelled from the school for his poor academic performance, Holden packs up and leaves the school in the middle of the night after a physical altercation with his roommate. He takes a train to New York but does not want to return to his family and instead checks into the dilapidated Edmont Hotel. There, he spends an evening dancing with three tourist girls and has a clumsy encounter with a young prostitute named Sunny. His attitude toward the prostitute changes the minute she enters the room, because she seems to be about the same age as Holden. Holden becomes uncomfortable with the situation, and when he tells her that all he wants to do is talk, she becomes annoyed with him and leaves. However, he still pays her for her time. Sunny and Maurice, her pimp
A pimp is an agent for prostitutes who collects part of their earnings. The pimp may receive this money in return for advertising services, physical protection, or for providing a location where she may engage clients...

, later return to Holden's hotel room and demand more money than was originally agreed upon. Despite the fact that Sunny takes five dollars from Holden's wallet, Maurice punches Holden in the stomach.

Holden calls up his old girlfriend, Sally Hayes, to invite her to see a musical. Sally very excitedly agrees, and they meet for the play. After the play Holden and Sally go skating, and while drinking coffee Holden impulsively invites Sally to run away with him, but she declines. Her response deflates Holden's mood, which prompts a remark: "You give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth" , he tells her, regretting it immediately. Sally storms off as Holden follows, pleading with her to accept his apology. Finally, Holden gives up and leaves her there.
Holden spends a total of three days in the city, and this time is characterized largely by drunkenness and loneliness. At one point he ends up at a museum, where he contrasts his life with the statues of Eskimos on display. For as long as he can remember, the statues have been unchanging. These concerns may have stemmed largely from the death of his brother, Allie. Eventually, he sneaks into his parents' apartment while they are away, to visit his younger sister, Phoebe, who is the only person with whom he seems to be able to communicate. Phoebe views Holden as a hero, and she is naively unaware that Holden's view of her is virtually identical. Holden shares a fantasy he has been thinking about (based on a mishearing of Robert Burns
Robert Burns
Robert Burns was a Scottish poet and a lyricist. He is widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland, and is celebrated worldwide...

' Comin' Through the Rye
Comin' Through the Rye
"Comin' Thro' the Rye" is a poem written in 1782 by Robert Burns . It is well known as a traditional children's song, with the words put to the melody of the Scottish Minstrel Common' Frae The Town...

): he pictures himself as the sole guardian of numerous children running and playing in a huge rye
Rye is a grass grown extensively as a grain and as a forage crop. It is a member of the wheat tribe and is closely related to barley and wheat. Rye grain is used for flour, rye bread, rye beer, some whiskeys, some vodkas, and animal fodder...

 field on the edge of a cliff. His job is to catch the children if they wander close to the brink; to be a "catcher in the rye." Because of this misinterpretation, Holden believes that to be a "catcher in the rye" means to save children from losing their innocence.

After leaving his parents' apartment, Holden drops by to see a former and much admired English teacher, Mr. Antolini, in the middle of the night, and is offered advice on life and a place to sleep. Mr. Antolini tells Holden that it is the mark of the mature man to live humbly for a cause, rather than die nobly for it. This is at odds with Holden's ideas of becoming a "catcher in the rye," a heroic figure who symbolically saves children from "falling off a crazy cliff" and being exposed to the evils of adulthood. During the speech on life, Mr. Antolini has a number of "highballs," referring to a cocktail served in a highball glass
Highball glass
A highball glass is a glass tumbler which will contain 8 to 12 fluid ounces . It is used to serve highball cocktails and other mixed drinks.A highball glass is taller than an Old Fashioned glass, and shorter and wider than a Collins glass....

. Holden is upset when he wakes up in the night to find Mr. Antolini patting his head in a way that he regards as "flitty
Homosexuality is romantic or sexual attraction or behavior between members of the same sex or gender. As a sexual orientation, homosexuality refers to "an enduring pattern of or disposition to experience sexual, affectional, or romantic attractions" primarily or exclusively to people of the same...

." There is much speculation on whether Mr. Antolini was making a sexual advance on Holden, but it is more likely that Holden does not recognize a fatherly gesture when he encounters one. Holden leaves and spends his last afternoon wandering the city. He later wonders if his interpretation of Mr. Antolini's actions was actually correct.

Holden makes the decision that he will head out west, and when he mentions these plans to his little sister, she decides she wants to go with him. Holden declines her offer and refuses to have her accompany him. This upsets Phoebe, so Holden does her a favor and decides not to leave after all. Holden tries to reverse her saddened mood by taking her to the Central Park Zoo
Central Park Zoo
The Central Park Zoo is a small zoo located in Central Park in New York City. It is part of an integrated system of four zoos and the New York Aquarium managed by the Wildlife Conservation Society , and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums .The zoo began in the 1860s as a...

. He realizes his mistake as she rides the carousel
A carousel , or merry-go-round, is an amusement ride consisting of a rotating circular platform with seats for riders...

 that lies within the zoo. At the conclusion of the novel, Holden decides not to mention much about the present day, finding it inconsequential. He alludes to "getting sick" and living in a mental hospital
Psychiatric hospital
Psychiatric hospitals, also known as mental hospitals, are hospitals specializing in the treatment of serious mental disorders. Psychiatric hospitals vary widely in their size and grading. Some hospitals may specialise only in short-term or outpatient therapy for low-risk patients...

, and mentions that he'll be attending another school in September; he relates how he has been asked whether he will apply himself properly to study this time around and questions whether such a question has any meaning before the fact. Holden says that he has surprisingly found himself missing two of his former classmates, Stradlater and Ackley, and even Maurice, the elevator operator/pimp; and warns the reader that telling others about their experiences will lead them to miss the people who shared them, whoever they are: “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”


Various older stories by Salinger contain characters similar to those in The Catcher in the Rye. While at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, Salinger wrote a short story called "Young Folks" in Whit Burnett
Whit Burnett
Whit Burnett was a writer and writing teacher who founded and edited the literary magazine Story. In the 1940s, Story was an important magazine in that it published the first or early works of many writers who went on to become major authors...

's class; one character from this story has been described as a "thinly penciled prototype of Sally Hayes". In November 1941, Salinger sold the story "Slight Rebellion off Madison
Slight Rebellion off Madison
"Slight Rebellion off Madison" is a short story written by J. D. Salinger for the December 21, 1946 issue of The New Yorker. It would become the basis for his famous novel The Catcher in the Rye, which contains a modified version of Slight Rebellion off Madison as chapter 17...

", which featured Holden Caulfield, to The New Yorker
The New Yorker
The New Yorker is an American magazine of reportage, commentary, criticism, essays, fiction, satire, cartoons and poetry published by Condé Nast...

, but it was not published until December 21, 1946, due to World War II. The story "I'm Crazy
I'm Crazy
"I'm Crazy" is a short story written by J. D. Salinger in 1945 for Collier's magazine; it is told in first-person narrative mode by Holden Caulfield. Salinger later reworked this short story to incorporate it into his classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye.-Synopsis:Boarding school drop-out Holden...

", which was published in the December 22, 1945, issue of Collier's, contained material that was later used in The Catcher in the Rye. A ninety-page manuscript about Holden Caulfield was accepted by The New Yorker for publication in 1946, but it was later withdrawn by Salinger.

Writing style

The Catcher in the Rye is written in a subjective
First-person narrative
First-person point of view is a narrative mode where a story is narrated by one character at a time, speaking for and about themselves. First-person narrative may be singular, plural or multiple as well as being an authoritative, reliable or deceptive "voice" and represents point of view in the...

 style from the point of view of its protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

, Holden Caulfield, following his exact thought processes. There is flow in the seemingly disjointed ideas and episodes; for example, as Holden sits in a chair in his dorm, minor events such as picking up a book or looking at a table, unfold into discussions about experiences.

When we looked deeply at Salinger's language we can see the effects of the unreliable narrator and Holden's over excited, disapproved, hyper actions. The word choice old, bastard and more is the reflection of Holden's psychosis and his problem which is not getting used to the truth; the truth that his brother Allie is dead. Salinger's sentence structure is disordered, streamed of conscious , truncated and short to make sure the reader understood Holden's problem.He emphasized Holden's ideas, reactions by repeating words and sentences which Holden used to impress himself.

Critical reviews agree that the novel accurately reflected the teenage colloquial
A colloquialism is a word or phrase that is common in everyday, unconstrained conversation rather than in formal speech, academic writing, or paralinguistics. Dictionaries often display colloquial words and phrases with the abbreviation colloq. as an identifier...

 speech of the time. Words and phrases that frequently appear include:
  • "Phony": Superficial, hypocritical, pretentious
  • "That killed me": I found that hilarious or astonishing
  • "Flit": Homosexual
  • "Flitty": Homosexual behavior
  • Wuddya:(the ya slang) vernacular rendering, idiomatic


Writer Bruce Brooks
Bruce Brooks
Bruce Brooks is an American author of young adult and children's literature. - Background :Brooks, born in Richmond, Virginia, lived most of his young life in North Carolina as a result of parental divorce. Brooks credits moving around multiple times between the two locations with making him a...

 held that Holden's attitude remains unchanged at story's end, implying no maturation, thus differentiating the novel from young adult fiction.
In contrast, writer and academic Louis Menand
Louis Menand
Louis Menand is an American writer and academic, best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Metaphysical Club , an intellectual and cultural history of late 19th and early 20th century America....

 thought that teachers assign the novel because of the optimistic ending, to teach adolescent readers that "alienation is just a phase." While Brooks maintained that Holden acts his age, Menand claimed that Holden thinks as an adult, given his ability to accurately perceive people and their motives such as when Phoebe states that she will go out west with Holden, and he immediately rejects this idea as ridiculous, much to Phoebe's disappointment. Others highlight the dilemma of Holden's state, in between adolescence and adulthood. While Holden views himself to be smarter than and as mature as adults, he is quick to become emotional. "I felt sorry as hell for..." is a phrase he often uses.

Peter Beidler, in his A Reader's Companion to J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye", identifies the movie that the prostitute "Sunny" refers to in chapter 13 of The Catcher in the Rye. She says that in the movie a boy falls off a boat. The movie is Captains Courageous, starring Spencer Tracy
Spencer Tracy
Spencer Bonaventure Tracy was an American theatrical and film actor, who appeared in 75 films from 1930 to 1967. Tracy was one of the major stars of Hollywood's Golden Age, ranking among the top ten box office draws for almost every year from 1938 to 1951...

. Sunny says that Holden looks like the boy who fell off the boat. Beidler shows (page 28) a still of the boy, played by child-actor Freddie Bartholomew
Freddie Bartholomew
Frederick Cecil Bartholomew , known for his acting work as Freddie Bartholomew, was an English-American child actor. One of the most famous child actors of all time, he became very popular in 1930s Hollywood films...


The novel's philosophy has been negatively compared with that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...


Each Caulfield child has literary talent: D. B. writes screenplays in Hollywood; Holden also reveres D. B. for his writing skill (Holden's own best subject), but he also despises Hollywood industry-based movies, considering them the ultimate in "phony" as the writer has no space for his own imagination, and describes D. B.'s move to Hollywood to write for films as "prostituting himself"; Allie wrote poetry on his baseball glove; and Phoebe is a diarist.
This "catcher in the rye" is an analogy for Holden, who admires in kids attributes that he struggles to find in adults, like innocence, kindness, spontaneity, and generosity. Falling off the cliff could be a progression into the adult world that surrounds him and that he strongly criticizes. Later, Phoebe and Holden exchange roles as the "catcher" and the "fallen"; he gives her his hunting hat, the catcher's symbol, and becomes the fallen as Phoebe becomes the catcher.


The Catcher in the Rye has been listed as one of the best novels of the 20th century. Shortly after its publication, writing for The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

, Nash K. Burger called it "an unusually brilliant novel," while James Stern wrote an admiring review of the book in a voice imitating Holden's. 41st United States president
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 called it "a marvelous book," listing it among the books that have inspired him. In June 2009, the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's Finlo Rohrer wrote that, 58 years since publication, the book is still regarded "as the defining work on what it is like to be a teenager. Holden is at various times disaffected, disgruntled, alienated, isolated, directionless, and sarcastic." Adam Gopnik
Adam Gopnik
Adam Gopnik, is an American writer, essayist and commentator. He is best known as a staff writer for The New Yorker—to which he has contributed non-fiction, fiction, memoir and criticism—and as the author of the essay collection Paris to the Moon, an account of five years that Gopnik, his wife...

 considers it one of the "three perfect books" in American literature, along with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a novel by Mark Twain, first published in England in December 1884 and in the United States in February 1885. Commonly named among the Great American Novels, the work is among the first in major American literature to be written in the vernacular, characterized by...

 and The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby is a novel by the American author F. Scott Fitzgerald. First published in1925, it is set on Long Island's North Shore and in New York City from spring to autumn of 1922....

, and believes that "no book has ever captured a city better than Catcher in the Rye captured New York in the fifties."

Not all reception has been positive, however; the book has had its share of critics. Rohrer writes, "Many of these readers are disappointed that the novel fails to meet the expectations generated by the mystique it is shrouded in. J. D. Salinger has done his part to enhance this mystique. That is to say, he has done nothing." Rohrer assessed the reasons behind both the popularity and criticism of the book, saying that it "captures existential teenage angst" and has a "complex central character" and "accessible conversational style"; while at the same time some readers may dislike the "use of 1940s New York vernacular," "self-obsessed central character," and "too much whining."


In 1960 a teacher was fired for assigning the novel in class; he was later reinstated. Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States. In 1981 it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States. According to the American Library Association
American Library Association
The American Library Association is a non-profit organization based in the United States that promotes libraries and library education internationally. It is the oldest and largest library association in the world, with more than 62,000 members....

, The Catcher in the Rye was the tenth most frequently challenged
Challenge (literature)
The American Library Association defines a challenge to literature as an attempt by a person or group of people to have materials, such as books, removed from a library or school curriculum, or otherwise restricted. Merely objecting to material is not a challenge without the attempt to remove or...

 book from 1990–1999. It was one of the ten most challenged books of 2005 and although it had been off the list for three years, it reappeared in the list of most challenged books of 2009. The challenges generally begin with Holden's frequent use of vulgar language, with other reasons including sexual references, blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

, undermining of family values and moral codes, Holden's being a poor role model, encouragement of rebellion, and promotion of drinking, smoking
Smoking is a practice in which a substance, most commonly tobacco or cannabis, is burned and the smoke is tasted or inhaled. This is primarily practised as a route of administration for recreational drug use, as combustion releases the active substances in drugs such as nicotine and makes them...

, lying, and promiscuity
In humans, promiscuity refers to less discriminating casual sex with many sexual partners. The term carries a moral or religious judgement and is viewed in the context of the mainstream social ideal for sexual activity to take place within exclusive committed relationships...

Often the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself. Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher who faced objections after assigning the novel in her class, noted that the challengers "are being just like Holden... They are trying to be catchers in the rye." A reverse effect has been that this incident caused people to put themselves on the waiting list to borrow the novel, when there were none before.

Mark David Chapman
Mark David Chapman
Mark David Chapman is an American prison inmate who murdered former Beatles member John Lennon on December 8, 1980. He committed the crime as Lennon and Yoko Ono were outside of The Dakota apartment building in New York City. Chapman aimed five shots at Lennon, hitting him four times in his back...

's shooting of John Lennon
John Lennon
John Winston Lennon, MBE was an English musician and singer-songwriter who rose to worldwide fame as one of the founding members of The Beatles, one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music...

 (Chapman was arrested with his worn copy of the book, and inside, he had scribbled a note: "This is my statement, From Holden Caulfield."), Robert John Bardo
Robert John Bardo
Robert John Bardo is an American man serving life imprisonment without parole after being convicted in October 1991 for the murder of actress Rebecca Schaeffer on July 18, 1989, whom he had stalked for several years beforehand....

's shooting of Rebecca Schaeffer
Rebecca Schaeffer
Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer was an American actress best known for her role in the sitcom My Sister Sam...

, and John Hinckley, Jr.
John Hinckley, Jr.
John Warnock Hinckley, Jr., attempted to assassinate U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981, as the culmination of an effort to impress teen actress Jodie Foster. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and has remained under institutional psychiatric care since...

's assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

 have also been associated with the novel.

In 2009 Salinger successfully sued to stop the U.S. publication of a novel that presents Holden Caulfield as an old man. The novel's author, Fredrik Colting, commented, "call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books." The issue is complicated by the nature of Colting's book, 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye, which has been compared to fan fiction
Fan fiction
Fan fiction is a broadly-defined term for fan labor regarding stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator...

. Although commonly not authorized by writers, no legal action is usually taken against fan fiction since it is rarely published commercially and thus involves no profit. Colting, however, has published his book commercially. Unauthorized fan fiction on The Catcher in the Rye existed on the Internet for years without any legal action taken by Salinger before his death.

Attempted adaptations

Early in his career, Salinger expressed a willingness to have his work adapted for the screen. However, in 1949
1949 in film
The year 1949 in film involved some significant events.-Top grossing films :- Awards :Academy Awards:*Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello...

, a critically panned film version of his short story "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut
Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut
"Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut" is a short story by J. D. Salinger, which appears in his collection Nine Stories. It was originally published in the March 20, 1948 issue of The New Yorker....

" was released; renamed My Foolish Heart
My Foolish Heart (film)
My Foolish Heart is a 1949 American film which tells the story of a woman's reflections on the bad turns her life has taken. It was directed by Mark Robson and stars Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward. Adapted from J. D...

 and taking great liberties with Salinger's plot, the film is widely considered to be among the reasons that Salinger refused to allow any subsequent movie adaptations of his work. The enduring popularity of The Catcher in the Rye, however, has resulted in repeated attempts to secure the novel's screen rights.

When The Catcher in the Rye was first released, many offers were made to adapt it for the screen; among them was Sam Goldwyn, producer of My Foolish Heart
My Foolish Heart (film)
My Foolish Heart is a 1949 American film which tells the story of a woman's reflections on the bad turns her life has taken. It was directed by Mark Robson and stars Dana Andrews and Susan Hayward. Adapted from J. D...

. In a letter written in the early fifties, J. D. Salinger spoke of mounting a play in which he would play the role of Holden Caulfield opposite Margaret O'Brien
Margaret O'Brien
Margaret O'Brien is an American film and stage actress. Although her film career as a leading character was brief, she was one of the most popular child actors in cinema history...

, and, if he couldn’t play the part himself, to “forget about it." Almost fifty years later, the writer Joyce Maynard
Joyce Maynard
Daphne Joyce Maynard is an American author known for writing with candor about her life, as well as for her works of fiction and hundreds of essays and newspaper columns, often about parenting and family...

 definitively concluded, "The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J. D. Salinger."

J. D. Salinger told Maynard in the seventies that Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis
Jerry Lewis is an American comedian, actor, singer, film producer, screenwriter and film director. He is best known for his slapstick humor in film, television, stage and radio. He was originally paired up with Dean Martin in 1946, forming the famed comedy team of Martin and Lewis...

 "tried for years to get his hands on the part of Holden," despite Lewis not having read the novel until he was in his thirties. Celebrities ranging from Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando, Jr. was an American movie star and political activist. "Unchallenged as the most important actor in modern American Cinema" according to the St...

 and Jack Nicholson
Jack Nicholson
John Joseph "Jack" Nicholson is an American actor, film director, producer and writer. He is renowned for his often dark portrayals of neurotic characters. Nicholson has been nominated for an Academy Award twelve times, and has won the Academy Award for Best Actor twice: for One Flew Over the...

 to Tobey Maguire
Tobey Maguire
Tobias Vincent "Tobey" Maguire is an American actor and producer. He began his career in the 1980s, and has achieved his greatest fame for his role as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Sam Raimi's Spider-Man films.-Early life:...

 and Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio is an American actor and film producer. He has received many awards, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Aviator , and has been nominated by the Academy Awards, Screen Actors Guild and the British Academy of Film and Television...

 have since made efforts to make a film adaptation. In an interview with Premiere
Premiere (magazine)
Premiere was an American and New York City-based film magazine published by Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S., published between the years 1987 and 2007. The original version of the magazine, Première , was started in France in 1976 and is still being published there.-History:The magazine originally...

 magazine, John Cusack
John Cusack
John Paul Cusack is an American film actor and screenwriter. He has appeared in more than 50 films, including The Journey of Natty Gann, Say Anything..., Grosse Point Blank, The Thin Red Line, Stand by Me, Con Air, Being John Malkovich, High Fidelity, Serendipity, Runaway Jury, The Ice Harvest,...

 commented that his one regret about turning twenty-one was that he had become too old to play Holden Caulfield. Writer-director Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder
Billy Wilder was an Austro-Hungarian born American filmmaker, screenwriter, producer, artist, and journalist, whose career spanned more than 50 years and 60 films. He is regarded as one of the most brilliant and versatile filmmakers of Hollywood's golden age...

 recounted his abortive attempts to snare the novel's rights:
In 1961 J. D. Salinger denied Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan
Elia Kazan was an American director and actor, described by the New York Times as "one of the most honored and influential directors in Broadway and Hollywood history". Born in Istanbul, the capital of the Ottoman Empire, to Greek parents originally from Kayseri in Anatolia, the family emigrated...

 permission to direct a stage adaptation of Catcher for Broadway. More recently, Salinger's agents received bids for the Catcher movie rights from Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein, CBE is an American film producer and movie studio chairman. He is best known as co-founder of Miramax Films. He and his brother Bob have been co-chairmen of The Weinstein Company, their film production company, since 2005...

 and Steven Spielberg
Steven Spielberg
Steven Allan Spielberg KBE is an American film director, screenwriter, producer, video game designer, and studio entrepreneur. In a career of more than four decades, Spielberg's films have covered many themes and genres. Spielberg's early science-fiction and adventure films were seen as an...

, neither of which was even passed on to J. D. Salinger for consideration.

In 2003 the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 television program The Big Read
Big Read
The Big Read was a survey on books carried out by the BBC in the United Kingdom in 2003, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time...

 featured The Catcher in the Rye, intercutting discussions of the novel with "a series of short films that featured an actor playing J. D. Salinger's adolescent antihero, Holden Caulfield." The show defended its unlicensed adaptation of the novel by claiming to be a "literary review", and no major charges were filed.

According to a speculative article in The Guardian
The Guardian
The Guardian, formerly known as The Manchester Guardian , is a British national daily newspaper in the Berliner format...

 in May 2006, there were rumors that director Terrence Malick
Terrence Malick
Terrence Frederick Malick is a U.S. film director, screenwriter, and producer. In a career spanning almost four decades, Malick has directed five feature films....

 had been linked to a possible screen adaptation of the novel.

After J. D. Salinger's death in 2010, Phyllis Westberg, who was Salinger's agent at Harold Ober Associates, stated that nothing has changed in terms of licensing movie, television, or stage rights of his works. A letter written by Salinger in 1957 revealed that he was open to an adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye released after his death. He wrote: "Firstly, it is possible that one day the rights will be sold. Since there's an ever-looming possibility that I won't die rich, I toy very seriously with the idea of leaving the unsold rights to my wife and daughter as a kind of insurance policy. It pleasures me no end, though, I might quickly add, to know that I won't have to see the results of the transaction."

In popular culture

References to The Catcher in the Rye in media and popular culture are numerous. Works inspired by the novel have been said to form their own genre. Dr. Sarah Graham assessed works influenced by The Catcher in the Rye to include the novels Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Easton Ellis is an American novelist and short story writer. His works have been translated into 27 different languages. He was regarded as one of the so-called literary Brat Pack, which also included Tama Janowitz and Jay McInerney...

, The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is an epistolary novel written by American novelist Stephen Chbosky. It was published on February 1, 1999 by MTV...

 by Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky
Stephen Chbosky is an American novelist, screenwriter, and film director best known for the coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower...

, A Complicated Kindness
A Complicated Kindness
A Complicated Kindness is a novel by Canadian author Miriam Toews.Originally published in 2004 by Knopf Canada, it was the winner of the Governor General's Award for English Fiction, and was nominated for the Giller Prize. It spent over a year on the Canadian bestseller lists...

 by Miriam Toews
Miriam Toews
Miriam Toews is a Canadian writer of Mennonite descent. She grew up in Steinbach, Manitoba and has lived in Montreal and London, before settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She moved to Toronto in 2009....

, The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar
The Bell Jar is American writer and poet Sylvia Plath's only novel, which was originally published under the pseudonym "Victoria Lucas" in 1963. The novel is semi-autobiographical with the names of places and people changed...

 by Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath
Sylvia Plath was an American poet, novelist and short story writer. Born in Massachusetts, she studied at Smith College and Newnham College, Cambridge before receiving acclaim as a professional poet and writer...

, and Ordinary People
Ordinary People
Ordinary People is a 1980 American drama film that marked the directorial debut of Robert Redford. It stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch and Timothy Hutton....

 by Judith Guest
Judith Guest
Judith Guest is an American novelist and screenwriter. She was born in Detroit, Michigan and is the great-niece of Poet Laureate Edgar Guest .- Work :...


External links

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