Kingwood College Library

J. D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

This web / library guide will help you find information for your research assignment both in the library and on Internet. For students at Kingwood College, there are books on reserve at the Circulation Desk. Ask a librarian for assistance.

Library Resources   Internet Sites


The Reference Area is the place to begin your research. Use an assortment the books listed below to get in touch with what literary people are saying about the novel.

Many of the following print materials are available in electronic format in the Literature Resource Center, a Kingwood College Library database.

REF PN771.G27 
Vol 1,3,8,12,56,138 
Contemporary Literary Criticism [CLC]  This multi-volume set contains excerpts from critical essays in books and journals. Use these volumes to 1) select a topic or theme, 2) find the full article or essay in the library, and 3) locate other articles and books from the "Further Reading" section. 
REF PS21.M34 
Vol 5 
Magill's Survey of American Literature  Entries include a biography, analysis of the author's work, and brief entries each of the major works. 
REF PS221.C8 
Vol 3 
Modern American Literature  This series has rather concise biographical and critical entries. You might find it helpful. 
REF PS221.T834 
Vol 6 
Twentieth Century American Criticism  This multi-volume set has biographical and general critical entries for most important American authors of this century. It is helpful for an overview.
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J(Jerome) D(David) Salinger was born Jan. 1, 1919 in New York City, the son of a Jewish father and an Irish mother. During his childhood he and his older sister, Doris, lived with their parents in several different apartments in the fashionable district of upper Manhattan.  In 1932 the family moved to a building located at the corner of Park Avenue and East Ninety-First Street. It was in this section of New York City that Salinger was to locate the apartment of the Caulfields in The Catcher in the Rye. At this time Salinger ceased going to  public schools and was enrolled in a series of prestigious private schools.  He graduated from the Valley Forge Military Academy in 1936.  He attended a number of colleges, but never obtained a degree.  In 1940 he published his first story and continued providing stories for such magazines as Colliers and The New Yorker throughout the 40's.  In 1942 he was drafted into the army and took part in the D-Day landing and five subsequent campaigns in World War II. In 1945 Salinger married for the first time a French woman he met while hospitalized for a nervous condition.  Within a year the marriage ended in divorce.  He was married for a second time in 1955 to Claire Douglas  with whom he had two children.  This marriage also ended in divorce in 1967.  From 1940 to 1953 he published thirteen short stories and one novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951).  There were two volumes of pirated short stories in the 1970's, but he personally published his last  work in 1963.  He now lives in Cornish, New Hampshire where he moved in 1953.  There he zealously guards his privacy and continues to write but not to publish.  Though his  literary output has been sparse,  he is considered one of the most influential authors of the twentieth century.  The Catcher in the Rye  has remained a novel taught in classrooms across the country despite its distinction of  being one of the most censored books of the last fifty years.  It appears on the American Library Association list of the ten most frequently challenged books of 2001.

Biographical Information in Books

REF PN41.D5 Vol 2, 102, 173  Dictionary of Literary Biography  DLB is a multi-volume work which provides detailed biographical sketches of the authors' literary writings as well as general critical commentary. It is a most useful collection. 
REF PS129.A55 Vol 3   American Writers  This set of books provides information about the lives, careers, and works of American writers. 
REF PN771.K86 Suppl 1  Twentieth Century Authors  This volume contains a sketch of his life written by J. D. Salinger himself 
PN 451.M63 Vol 3  Cyclopedia of World Authors  Pertinent information is given about an author in a concise format. 
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Setting: The Catcher in the Rye takes place in New York City, Agerstown, Pennsylvania, and a sanatorium. The time is shortly after World War II during the Christmas season.

Characters include:

Holden Caulfield- a recently suspended sixteen-year old preparatory school student
Phoebe Caulfield - Holden's ten-year old sister
Mr. Antolini - Holden's favorite teacher
Sally Hayes - a slightly older friend of Holden who is his date
Robert Ackley - a resident in Holden's dorm at Pencey
Ward Stradlater - Holden's roommate at Pencey

Themes to Consider:

  • Suicide 
  • Adolescent Behavior 
  • Cynicism 
  • Idealism 
  • Censorship 
  • Brother-Sister Relations 
  • Pressure to Conform 
  • Social Change 
  • Social Class 
  • Use of First Person Narrator 
  • Influence of Buddhism 
  • Antiheroes 

Character Information in Books

  • Most of the books listed on this entire page will have information about the characters in the book. 
REF PS374.C43M35  Major Characters in American Fiction  Long-ish entries on the most important characters. 
PN56.4.H37  Characters in 20th-Century Literature  Brief entry on the characters in this book under Salinger 
NetLibrarylibrary barcode for login Holden Caulfield A book of essays on the character of Holden Caulfield 
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The following books will help you find additional information. Use them and find others on your own - appropriate to your topic. Once you find a book which interests you, browse through the Reference and Circulating shelves close by for more on the topic.
REF PN 50.L574 1997 Vol 4  Literature and Its Times  The entry on The Catcher in the Rye fixes it in the context of the historical events at the time of the novel. 
PS 65.C46 C46 1993  Censored Books: Critical Viewpoints  Contains an essay on The Catcher in the Rye. 
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MLA Bibliography
One of the oldest and most authoritative sources for citations to literary criticism, this index from the Modern Language Association will help you locate articles from scholarly literary journals.  Use the Advanced search screen and limit searches to journal articles in English.  This database must be used with microfiche located in the library.
Literature Resource Center
Full text articles from reference books and Twayne's Masterworks books.  Journal articles, some full text and some excerpted.  Search for information by author, title or use custom search to combine the two.
PA ResearchII/ProQuest
This full-text multi-discipline database includes articles on literature, although many of the journals are not scholarly or literary.
Academic Search Premier
This is another full-text multi-discipline database from Ebsco.

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The best way to find books about Salinger's work is to use the library catalog. Choose"Subject Keyword" from the menu options and type in Salinger. This will bring up all the subjects which have Salinger in them. Be creative and try several searches. Find a common Library of Congress number and browse the shelves. This is a good way to find books you may not find in the catalog. 
Catalog terms you might consider using Subject Keyword are:
Salinger | The Catcher in the Rye 
Teenagers in Literature | Alienation in Literature | Youth in Literature | Holden Caulfield | 
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J. D. Salinger
Google's annotated list of Catcher sites in order of popularity

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English 1302 Students: |
| Kingwood College Library | Research Guides
Web page written by Bettye Sutton Oct. 31, 2002 Updated Nov. 7, 2002