J.D. Salinger

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Welcome to a thorough report on the life of Jerome David Salinger. It will outline his life from birth to the present. It will also discuss some of his better known literary works. Information about his early life, and family, schooling, and present condition can also be found within.

Jerome David Salinger, better know as J. D. Salinger, Was born in New York City, on the days of January 1, 1919. His father was Sol Salinger, and his mother, Miriam Jillich. His mother was Scotch-Irish and changed her name from Marie, to Miriam to fit better into her new family. Sol Salinger's father was an Orthodox Judaism rabbi, born in Cleveland, Ohio, and abandoned the faith to become a ham importer. His sister, Doris, was eight years older than him, and played a key part several of Salinger's later characters.

Following the role of a later character Holden Caulfield, Salinger started in a public grammar school, then enrolled in McBurney School, a private school in Manhattan, along with several others in the area.

Young Salinger did well in school, but his weakness was in arithmetic. Salinger showed an early interest in drama, voted most popular actor at a 1930 summer camp in Harrison, Maine. Our subject later belonged to the Valley Forge Military Academy Glee Club, and Mask and Spur (a dramatic organization).

In 1934 Salinger enrolled in Valley Forge Military Academy. There his IQ was tested at 115 points, an above average score for his age. Salinger scored well in his classes, averaging a B in his studies. Our author found a place for himself as a literary editor for the academy yearbook his senior year. "While it cannot how much was contributed anonymously to this book, Salinger signed a three-stanza poetic tribute that has since been set to music and is still sung by the cadets at their last formation before graduation" (French 22). Working under his sheets by flashlight, Salinger began writing short stories during this time. Salinger graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy in June of 1936.

After his graduation he attended a summer session at New York University, the travels briefly to Vienna, and Poland with his father while learning the ham importing business. Salinger never took over his father's business, but did manage to learn perfect his German speaking skills.

Autumn of 1938, Salinger enrolled in Ursinus College. For the following nine weeks he wrote a column in the local weekly newspaper. Salinger's first publication was "The Young Folks," which was printed in Story in March of 1940. This evidentially got some attention to Salinger, because later the next year, Collier's, Esquire, and New Yorker all wanted a piece too. Salinger had finally reached the well-paying mass magazines.

Then in 1941, he wrote a letter showing his desire to join the military to Milton G. Baker, an adjutant at Valley Forge Military Academy. Our subject was not immediately given a fighting position due to a cardiac condition. Salinger was said to have the duty of correcting papers at a flight school for a while until the health standards were lowered. Then Salinger attended Officers, First Sergeants, and Instructors School of the Signal Corps. After that, he applied for Officers' Candidate School. In 1943 he was transferred to the Army Counter-Intelligence Corps. Again in 1945, mingled with his military duties, this was one of Salinger's most productive years. Salinger had stories in Saturday Evening Post, Collier's, and New Yorker.

In 1946, Salinger's second Holden Caulfield accepted for publication, but mysteriously withdrawn by Salinger. The next year, our author redeemed himself with a debut in Mademoiselle. Published was "A Young Girl in 1941 with No Waist at All." 1948 was Salinger's most impressive year with a New Yorker publication of "A perfect Day for Bannanafish." Others were published in Best American Short Stories of 1949, Good Housekeeping, and more in New Yorker. Sometime later that year, he also moved to Westport, Connecticut.

In 1950 Salinger makes his movie appearance, with "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut." "The Samuel Goldwyn studios had converted "Uncle Wiggily in Connecticut," to "My Foolish Heart," an "adult" romance staring popular Susan Hayward, and Dana Andrews."(French 27). The following year was also a landmark for Salinger with the July 16 publication of The Catcher in the Rye. "In contsast to the selfless hero, Salinger has created a selfless heroine."(Belcher and Lee 109). This Timeless book was hardly read until two years after its printing. On October 21, the up-and-coming book reached its peak of forth for only twenty-nine weeks.

Shortly after this Valley Forge Military Academy selected him for their 1952 distinguished alumni of the year award. While his sister had to accept it for him, he wrote them a nice thank you letter from sunny Mexico. Upon returning from Mexico, he moves to somewhat of a complex in Cornish, New Hampshire. There he meets his future bride, Claire Douglas.

Salinger was interviewed by a schoolgirl from a nearby town's newspaper. This interview was intended to be rather low-key and apparently the Eagle, or the interviewer, sold it to a major publication. Salinger was furious and didn't speak to the press again until 1974.

In 1954 Salinger and Claire Douglas get married on February 17. "Franny" got published in New Yorker, along with "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters." Then, a year later, "Zooey" appears in the same publication, followed the next year by Seymour. The next February, Salinger's son, Matthew, is born. "Raise High the Roofbeam, Carpenters" and "Seymour" team up for one of Salinger's final publications.

Salinger's latest release is published, but is being held for unknown reasons. Hapworth 16, 1924, first appeared in a 1965 New Yorker issue. When questioned about his first release in 36 years, Saturday Night Live joked that he replied "Get the hell off my lawn!" It will consist of another Glass family story.

While everyone knows about The Catcher in the Rye, not many have read this other classic by J. D. Salinger. Franny and Zooey is a story about Franny Glass, a young college girl and her brother Zooey, an actor in his middle 20's. Like The Catcher in the Rye, a theme in this book is questioning people and the World Franny finds a new religious idea, which starts her wondering about life and what she should do with hers. As everyone knows, that is very complicated subject to question, and it spawns somewhat of a breakdown. J. D. Salinger attacks the universal theme of putting aside misconceptions and egos and getting back into the childlike innocence, Salinger's reoccurring theme, by showing the two stories of Franny and Zooey as well as the concept of "the fat lady." Away at school, Franny begins to have doubts about the meaning of life. Franny rebels from these thoughts by taking on the Jesus Prayer. She becomes absorbed in herself and ends up judging even Jesus from The Bible. It is this misinterpretation of her newly learned religion that leads to the tenth rate nervous breakdown, and the rejection of society as a whole. Franny has a tenth rate nervous breakdown because she was involving herself too deeply in the religion, and would not come out of it to see the world. Franny is so obsessed with this new religion, her trip to the bathroom in Sickler's diner is described, "..as though it were a rendezvous point of some kind..."(Salinger Franny 5) because she could read the little green book. It was overpowering her, and it quickly became dangerous. On her way to the bathroom for a second time, "She weaved a trifle, then fainted, collapsing to the floor."(Salinger Franny 6). This religion is so powerful that it is causing Franny's health to deteriorate. But was the prayer the cause of her breakdown, or just the opposite? The second story, Zooey, begins with a hilarious scene of Zooey trying to take a bath with his mother constantly interrupting him. They are both worried sick over Franny, who is asleep in the living room, but they have different approaches to handling the situation. Zooey is the comic, hiding his concern behind a string of jokes and insults. But he has been down the same path as Franny before, and tries to use his experiences to help her. Our subject blames Franny's breakdown, and some of his own problems, on their two oldest brothers. His more simple-minded mother, however, doesn't understand what her children are going through, but her love for them is clear. Zooey goes through the process of learning to set aside the discrepancies similar to Franny. It took Zooey four years to figure out what the letter from Buddy meant, and four years to figure out that he should stop putting so much importance on the differences in people. The letter had been " . . .. unfolded and refolded on too many private occasions during the four years. . . .was actually torn in several places, mostly along the creases. . . ."(Salinger Franny 7). In this letter to Zooey, Buddy also tells Zooey of a time in the grocery store talking to a little girl: I told her she was about the prettiest little girl I'd seen all day. . . .she nodded. . . .I asked her how many boy friends she had. She held up two fingers. "Two!" I said. "That's a lot of boy friends. What are their names sweetheart?" Said she, in a piercing voice, Bobby and Dorothy."(Salinger Franny 8). This episode is an example of the primary message in the text. The little girl at the counter does not know the differences between boys and girls. This is symbolic for all the differences in the world: religious beliefs, race, and political preference. Children possess an innocence that is unique only to them. They are careless of whom they associate, and are numb of what a persons beliefs are. This childlike innocence is what is essential in finding the true advantages of a religion, as well as the prevention of turning the religion into a deadly weapon. In the end, Zooey tries to bring Franny around with a deep discussion of his philosophy of religion, the meaning of life, and the "fat lady." The "fat lady" is a fine example of the universality of suffering in all religions and walks of life. Zooey is trying to show Franny that everyone suffers, regardless of their religious beliefs. Saying the prayer is her choice. It may be one possible way of finding answers. However, Zooey feels that she happens to be going about the prayer the wrong way and in the wrong place. Our author introduces the fat lady story, while playing the role of Buddy, to show her that the prayer may not be the end all her questions. Saying that the fat lady is Jesus seems to point out that the prayer is not exactly what Franny wants to be doing. She needs to embrace images like the professor with ruffled hair rather than be upset by them. Interestingly, Zooey came to this conclusion and thought of the fat lady story while in Buddy and Seymour's old room.

Franny nearly drove herself to insanity with an echo of the religious message her older brothers Seymour and Buddy taught her. "He was a mercy killer."(Salinger Catcher 211) By interpreting "The Jesus Prayer," Franny fails to see the difference between her own ego and those of their people in her society. In Franny and Zooey the sense that letting go of your ego is a large step in the right direction when trying to return to the nature of a child. Restoring the childlike qualities are precisely what Franny needed to do and she was absorbing herself in the little green book, entangling herself in her ego, which was quickly becoming inescapable. As religion is so powerful, the understanding of it and what it is trying to teach is crucial to all who attempt to accept it. Franny did not understand the power of the Jesus Prayer. It almost ruined her life beyond repair.

Setting aside preconceptions will allow one to further free oneself from their ego, and view other positions objectively. Allowing for a greater understanding of the world and its religions, basically telling us to return to our childlike innocence and remove the filters that prevent us from forgetting about the differences.

Salinger turned eighty years old last month, and still lives today in Cornish, New Hampshire. Although he is not as touchy about the press, interviews with him are extremely rare. His son, now thirty-nine, resides in Houston, Texas.

While everyone who has had an American Literature class has heard of J. D. Salinger, how many understand him? How many people even questioned if they were a catcher in the rye or not? "…is Holden a catcher?"(Westbrook 211) Did Salinger move someone to think about the differences and similarities between religions, or which one makes the most sense? I can not answer all of these questions, but there is one reoccurring fact. Salinger is devoted to the preservation of innocence. One might guess that he admires youth. "It is Phobe the playing child whi keeps him from falling to entire destruction."(Hamilton 24). Like when Holden saw the f-word written on the wall, he had to clean it up, and Zooey trying to protect his sister from many problems of the world. Salinger sees youth as perpetual innocence, and will be sadly missed when he dies.