Catcher Banned

Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States, although those opposed to the novel were often unfamiliar with the plot itself. Reasons for censorship included: vulgarity, sexual references, blasphemy, lack of morality and familial values, and finally—promotion of rebellion, alcoholic consumption, smoking, lying, and promiscuity.

In Catcher’s Keeper, Alden’s teenage journal is stolen by his brother (Jerry), who publishes it under his name. This stolen, published journal becomes The Catcher in the Rye. In Chapter 24, Jerry is interviewed by a newspaper reporter and addresses some of the controversy mentioned above in the novel.

Jerry’s answers are based on thoughts I’d have as I taught The Catcher in the Rye in an academic setting. Some of Jerry’s answers are based on my students’ reactions to some issues, themes, or symbols discussed in the book. Some answers are how I would imagine Salinger reacting to some of the opposition to his book, as it’s been documented that Salinger was a bit shocked at the attention Catcher received. Salinger had also admitted to its autobiographical content, which I believe was embarrassing to him. This shaped my depiction of Alden and his reaction to his “journal.”


 

Book Excerpt (Jerry’s interview)

(Reporter) “Tell me, what kind of social criticism are you trying to achieve here?”

(Jerry) “Social criticism?” I stifle a laugh. “This could hardly be considered—”

“But you continually use a specific term: phony. You basically accuse others of being insincere and disingenuous repeatedly throughout the novel.”

“Well, my main character does.”

“Yes. Let’s talk about him. Your main character is a loner, to be blunt. Would you say he alienates himself from others or do others alienate him?”

“Um, I guess he alienates himself.”

“Right. From the same society in which he criticizes.”

“Sure. Okay.”

“Some would suggest your main character is condescending, arrogant. How would you describe him?”

“He’s just a kid.” Now I’m feeling defensive. This is Alden we’re talking about. “I would describe him as troubled.”

“Do you worry about backlash?”

“Backlash?”

“Some people—especially parents—may be offended with your main character’s questionable morals and behavior. He lies, smokes. He’s inappropriate toward girls.”

“Actually, I don’t believe his behavior is necessarily immoral. If you look beyond what he says, and look at what he does, you see he’s not a bad kid.”

 

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