Is the Catcher in the Rye should be banned? According to Sova B Dawn, “The novel has long ignited disapproval, and it was the most frequently banned book in schools between 1966 and 1975. Even before that time, however, the work was a favorite target of sensors. ” (Dawn) Whitfield also documents that “In 1973 the American School Board Journal called The Catcher in the Rye the most widely censored book in the United States. ” (Whitfield) Why people, especially parents, eager to place the Catcher in the Rye, the classic story of a teenager quest for maturity in the banned book list? “In late 1980, Mark David Chapman stuck a copy of J. D.
Salinger’s book in his pocket as he stalked and then murdered John Lennon. Before the New York police arrived, the assassin began re-reading the novel to himself. ” Whitfield documents the negative influence the Catcher in the Rye has, “John Hinckley, who said ‘if you want my defense all you have to do is read Catcher in the Rye. It seemed to be time to read it again. ’” (Whitfield)Both of these men claimed that their defense could be found within the pages of Salinger’s novel. People may wonder why the book has the odd connection with criminal loners. Maybe because they found themselves are so familiar with what happened to Holden Caulfield?
Most people counts these crimes as a result of publishing the novel, however, if the book doesn’t exist at all, these two people would still be involved in crimes. In other words, it is not the book that boosts them to shoot people. It is themselves that did so. Obviously, another reason is the book “included considerable profanity and ‘filthy and profane’ language. ” (Dawn) Some parents prohibited their children to read the novel even without reading it themselves. They just flip a few pages and the offending words can be easily found so that they immediately make a judgment that this book is not suitable for children to learn.
But the question is, is that really true? If a work contains “dirty” words is it mean it’s immoral? To answer the question, we have to define the word “morality”. The definition of morality varies from different people depending on their social position, their careers and their growing path and so on. We should not listen to those who yelling the loudest unconditionally, instead we should choose to listen to our own hearts, to make our own decisions, to find the mature definition. We can take a serious look into Holden Caulfield that whether he sets a bad example to teenagers or not.
For this problem, Edwards has her view that the Holden’s suggestive immorality doesn’t influence the readers negatively. On the contrary, it is Holden’s many good qualities that actually influence the readers positively. Edwards then uses five different moral ideas—Unto the Least of These, Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother, Blessed are the Pure, Woe to You, Hypocrites, Suffer the Little Children— to show the relationship between Holden Caulfield and Bible in her article in order to prove the protagonist is not “guilty” for his actions.
The main idea Edwards uses is Holden’s relationship with his family. No one could probably love his family more than Holden does. He admires his older brother, D. B’s skill and work as a writer in Hollywood. And for Allie, Holden’s little brother, died for leukemia about two years ago, Holden described him as “terrifically intelligent” and “the most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest. ” (Salinger 38) When Holden knew about his younger brother’s death,
He mentioned that his hand still hurts once in a while, which may refer his special feelings for Allie, will not disappear as the time passed by. Another indispensable character is Holden’s ten-year-old sister, Phoebe. “You should see her. You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life. She’s really smart. I mean she’s had all A’s ever since she started school. ” (Salinger) One can easily see Holden’s care and love for Phoebe. The leading character of Catcher in the Rye is absolutely not against the family value which society take a really consideration for one to be moral.
It is exactly his love for Phoebe, his love for family that keeps him stay rather than escaping to “somewhere out west where it was very pretty and sunny and where nobody’d know me. ” (Salinger 198) Holden’s empathy for other people serves as another reason that this novel is about morality. “One of the most endearing qualities of the teenage protagonist is his empathy for other people, especially those whom others reject. ” (Edwards) Ackley, for example, everyone hates him. He has “sinus trouble, pimples, lousy teeth, halitosis, crumby fingernails. like June Edwards concluded from the novel. (Edwards) But, says Holden, “You had to feel a little sorry for the crazy sonuvabitch. ” (Salinger) Holden is the only one who does. Though Ackley irritates him, he never turns him away. What’s more, he even invited Ackley to see a movie with him and another boy because he knew he has no friends at all and no one else would hangs out with him. The concern about other people Holden showed doesn’t come very often in the surroundings at his age, which proves that the Catcher in the Rye’s morality.
Holden Caulfield claims himself hates people who behave one way in public and another way in private. “Except if some boy had little old funny-looking parents…… if a boy’s mother was sort of fat and corny-looking…… then old Haas would just shake hands with them and give them a phony smile and then he’d go talk, maybe for half an hour with someone else’s parents. ” (Salinger) One of the most important qualities about morality is against hypocrites. Being genuine and honesty towards others is what Holden believes in and he actually did accomplish it.
What’s more, after Holden leaves Pency Prep, he made his way to New York City. Afraid of going home to tell his parents the truth that he was expelled from school, again, and let them disappointed, he decided to go to a hotel. Holden said yes to a pimp who persuades him to have a good time in the elevator. However, he found himself “uncomfortable” when the prostitute approaches him. His inability to a sexual activity indicates the characteristic he has— innocence, which he also wants to protect children from losing. The title “Catcher in the Rye” reveals the protagonist’s willingness to become the Catcher.
Aside of his own innocence, Holden would like to “catch” other children’ innocence. When Holden comes home without telling his parents just to see Phoebe, he tells her that what he would like to become more than anything else in the world is a Catcher in the Rye. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. ……And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff ……I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. (Salinger 173) The innocence and simplicity of children holds an especial appeal for Holden as well. For instance, toward the end of the book, Holden’s frantic desire to erase all the “Fuck you” s scrawled throughout the city and around the world is related to Holden’s fear of becoming an adult, his disgust with the vulgarity of the real world, and his need to protect the innocence of those younger than him, just like his sister. One cares so much about protecting others from falling to the “cliff” must be a genuine and virtuous person. In conclusion, it can be argued that the Catcher in the Rye is a moral book and should not be banned.
Though we’ve reached an agreement that problematic words, sentences do exist, we need to learn to look beyond them because we know the intention of Holden is good. Judge a book’s quality and education meaning is not depending on whether it has blasphemous words or not. Actions, not words, reveal a person’s attitude and intention. What truly inside the bad words is a sense of being lost; we can witness a teenager’s struggle and search for finding his value in society. The word he uses is a typical insecure young man’s protection shell during adolescence, which we should be able to understand.