J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger
Jerome David Salinger, known as J.D., is an American short story writer and novelist. He was born on January 1, 1919 and is still alive at the age of 81. J.D. Salinger was born and raised in Manhattan. He went to prep school at Valley Forge Military Academy from 1934-1936. He spent 5 months in Europe when he was 18 or 19 years old. Then, in 1937 and 1938 he studied at Ursinus College and New York University. From 1939 to 1942, he went to Columbia University where he decided to become a writer. Salinger published short story collections and one novel. His best known work, The Catcher in the Rye, was published in 1951. The short stories he wrote were "Nine Stories" in 1953, "Franny and Zooey" in 1961, "Raise High the Roofbeams, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction" in 1963, "Young Folk" in 1940 and "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in 1948. Many critics have considered J.D. Salinger a very controversial writer because of the subject matters he wrote about. For example Salinger wrote about religion, intellectuals, emotional struggles of adolescents, loneliness and symbolism (Jones).
Some critics feel his writing was inappropriate because of the topics he wrote about. The main characters were considered misfits of society. The characters generally did not fit in with traditional American culture. They could not adjust to the real world. However, Salinger?s most successful stories are the ones about people who could not adjust. The super-intelligent humans who had to choose between the American culture at that time and the moral world, or choose between the "phony" real world and the morally "pure" world. Salinger creates these misfits, as heroes who do not fit into society. They struggle between the two worlds ? shallow and moral. The leading characters are on a mission of happiness. At first, Salinger does not lead the characters to material happiness; he has them start out in a bad situation. By the time they make it through the end of the story they have changed for the better. One of these characters that he writes about in this situation is Holden Caufield in The Catcher in the Rye. He starts off in a bad situation because he has just flunked out of his third private boarding school. He finally gives up life on his own in Manhattan and returns home in solitude where he finds happiness. The critics found these situations that the characters were in debatable (Hamilton 113).
In "Franny and Zooey," Franny and Zooey Glass are an example of Salinger?s misfit characters of the 60s. They are brother and sister who are super-intelligent freaks and cannot deal with society or reality. The controversy comes when they must chose between Salinger?s two worlds ? the real or phony. Their older brothers teach them Zen Buddhism and many other religions and philosophies. Salinger uses this religious theme with these two characters to show how they have to deal with their world of religion and how they have to stop using religion to deal with their problems (Green). This religious theme was a controversial one for the author. Salinger often uses religion for comfort. He leads his characters on a journey for happiness through religion. It is a way to free them. Salinger uses much of the Zen philosophy to attain this freedom. The Zen Philosophy was a new sect of Buddhism that came out of China. It promoted Meditation as the way to personal fulfillment ("Zen" 146).
One of Salinger?s characters in "Nine Stories" has a certain philosophy about life that runs parallel to the Eightfold Path used in the Buddhism religion. The Eightfold Path is one of the four Noble Truths. It is a path to the suppression of suffering and it is made up of eight parts that form the cornerstone of the Buddhist faith. Buddha wanted to be liberated in his life just like the character in Salinger?s work who eventually achieves nirvana, the ultimate goal of the Buddhist path, by committing suicide. In this way, he lets go of all the suffering and attains happiness. It is a controversial way to view happiness. Religion is a force in the story to create happiness. Many times the story is very depressing until religion is introduced and peace is attained ("Buddhism" 432-433).
Salinger also shows a quest for happiness through loneliness. He isolates his characters from society. This is also