Banned Books Week: Mary Kathryn Barry’s Take on the Catcher in the Rye

Today, we have chosen junior secondary English education major Mary Kathryn Barry to share her thoughts on The Catcher in the Rye with us.  Barry is a member of Sigma Tau Delta and the Classics Book Club, as well as the METP program.

It is hard for me to pick one specific banned book as my favorite, so instead I’ll highlight a perennial love of mine, JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. It had become a tradition of mine to read this novel every 2-3 years and every time I do I take away something different.  The first time I read it was in 8th grade and I will be the first to admit that I did not fully grasp it, but something about it stuck in my subconscious.

After I read it a second time in 11th grade, it had become a favorite.  By my first semester of freshman year in my Honors 101 class, I came to realize that this was a book that would always stick with me.

The American Library Association writes that the Catcher in the Rye had been banned and/or challenged for being obscene, unacceptable, foul, filthy, and morally undermining.  What interests me about this reasoning is that there is not substantive reasoning for challenging the book, but rather a fear of students identifying with Holden and trying to imitate his actions.  Understanding the reasoning behind banning a book is vital because it reveals the roots of a societal fear that certain books will corrupt or damage the minds of our youth.  Further still, it is important to understand that banned books not only touch the ‘classics,’ but are becoming increasingly pertinent to young adult literature, especially those dealing with diverse characters and life beyond the society’s definition of ‘normal.’

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