about me
introduction to this website 
about The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
links & recommended

* * *

Why buy books when you can get individual worksheets
by email attachment?


Who is this cute little kid behind the fence?

Right! It's Allie on his bike, watching his brother Holden play golf 
(chapter 5, art by Suzanne Morine).
And it's an invitation to take a look at my
Catcher in the Rye  GALLERY

The Catcher in the Rye:

NOTE:   Much as I would like to quote many passages from CR, I really can't do it because from what we know about the late Holden Server and other sites Salinger really doesn't like that sort of thing.
1.  Summary of the Novel
2.  The writing on the wall (I):    publishing history
3.  The writing on the wall (II):   How stupid can you get?
4.  The Critics:  Hitting the Nail on the Head  vs  Missing the Nail Completely
5.  Jane Gallagher
6.  The Secret Goldfish
7.  Holden's Language  or:  How to Ignore the Obvious
8.  Kaleidoscope:  "Amateur" Opinions
9.  Chapter Headlines
10.  Basic elements of the plot: a diagram
11.  CR as a picaresque novel
12.  "phony"
13.  Concerning the German translation of CR
14.  The second word in the novel - and the first sentence in foreign languages
15.  A Gift for Holden
16.  Symbolism:  "I was only horsing around, naturally"
17.  The "Little Shirley Beans" Record
18.  Phoebe on the Carrousel: The Turning Point
19.  A thorough reading?! - Notes on the SUMMARY
20.  Essays and Thoughts by Various People
21.  Ideas for Papers, Creative Writing, etc
22. The Ending of the Novel
23. Spencer
24. Just for Fun: A Catcher in the Rye QUIZ
25. The Catcher in the Rye:  73,000 Words in a Row
26.The Catcher in the Rye  Part II ??
27.The Title of the Novel in Foreign Publications
28. The Audio Catcher?!
29. The Bowdlerized Catcher in the Rye


Summary of the Novel

NOTE:  This summary is definitely NOT supposed to replace a thorough reading of the novel itself.

   Holden Caulfield, the seventeen-year-old narrator, is in a resthome in California, looking back on events which happened around Christmas. Having been expelled from Fencey Prep, a boys' school in Pennsylvania, Holden pays a final visit to Mr Spencer, his history teacher. The latter lectures him on his poor scholarship; when Spencer suddenly tries to sell him an old Navajo blanket for no apparent reason, Holden excuses himself and leaves in a hurry. Outside his dorm he meets Mr Ossenburger, an "old fart" after whom one of the wings of the school was named. In his room Holden is briefly visited by Ackley, a sensitive boy whom Holden admires. Later Stradlater, Holden's room-mate, arrives. An argument flares up between the two boys about Jane Gallagher, Mr Ossenburger's stepdaughter. In the ensuing fight Holden is beaten, after which he finishes packing and leaves. 

   On the train to New York he has a conversation with a woman who turns out to be  Mrs Yester, the mother of one of the few classmates he likes. In NYC Holden checks into a second-rate hotel. After midnight, in the hotel's night club, he dances with three girls from Seattle and has a heated discussion with one of them about the Statue of Liberty. In the hotel lobby he recalls an afternoon with Jane Gallagher during which they played checkers; eventually she annoyed him by constantly putting all his kings in the back row. Later he has an argument with a prostitute and her pimp about the impending dollar crisis.

   Next morning, at a sandwich bar near Grand Central Station, he meets two nuns. After an enchanting conversation he inexplicably tries to steal their straw baskets. Then he has a date with Sally Hayes, a rather plump girl who considers herself an ice-skating champion. Holden tries to persuade her to drive with him to Vermont in the near future and live in a cabin camp in the woods; reluctantly she agrees.

   In the evening, feeling lonely, Holden finally decides to go home and see his kid sister Phoebe. Fortunately, their parents are out. When she challenges him to name one thing in life that he likes, Holden eventually admits that he liked playing baseball with his brother Allie in a rye field near a duck pond in the vicinity of Central Park South. Although it is quite late, Holden then visits a former teacher of his, Mr Antolini. However, he has to leave rather suddenly because the spaghetti served by Mrs Antolini have a devastating effect on his stomach.

   In the morning, suffering from diarrhea and vainly attempting to get a lift from the Holland Tunnel to the West, he tries to meet Phoebe at her school. Unfortunately, the principal catches him writing obscene words on the school walls and threatens to call the police. After a while he finally does meet Phoebe; she drags a big suitcase with her, intending to go West with him. When, however, she inadvertently opens it, thus spilling all her belongings on the ground, they decide to go to the carrousel in Central Park instead. Phoebe goes for a ride on it, although she claims she is too small. Holden just watches her falling off now and then until the smoke from his cigarette gets in his eyes and he decides to take a Greyhound bus to California in order to visit his brother D.B. in Hollywood and possibly collaborate with him on writing movie scripts.

* * *


The writing on the wall (I): 
publishing history

   Here's an interesting aspect concerning the writing on the wall in chapter 25: 

   In the 1963 Penguin edition (and certainly before that time too), when Holden is in Phoebe's school it just says that someone had written "- you" on the wall. This is still true for the 1981 Penguin edition. However, in the 1984 Bantam/ELT edition, it says explicitly "Fuck you". 
I wonder who decided to change that - was it the publisher, or Salinger himself?! If you know, let me know!

   On Nov 1, 1999, I got the following email: " seems that the omission of the 'f' word was a decision made by the Penguin editor. I have the 1963 Signet Book ("a reprint of the original hardcover by Little, Brown & Co.") edition, and it is unexpurgated."   Thanks Kyle!

* * *


The writing on the wall (II):
How stupid can you get?

   The following extract from J.D.Salinger: Revisited by Warren French illustrates in a superb way why, with regard to some critics who condemn the word "fuck" in the novel, one can only shake one's head and say, "How stupid can you get?"

   Because the word "fuck" appears six times, Catcher has been countless times condemned as obscene by individuals or groups seeking to have it censored or removed from public schools or libraries. 
   Rarely is there any evidence that the self-appointed guardians of virtue initiating these demands have read the entire novel to learn the context in which the word appears. The whole effort in itself only serves to confirm Holden's cheerless perception that people only notice what they wish; at the same time it provides a depressing example of people's not recognizing an ally when one appears. Instead of condemning the novelist for using profane language, those concerned should come to the defense of the quixotic hero who tries to rid the world of such outrages and their perpetrators. 

   NOTE:  See also EXTERNAL ASPECTS,  # 10  and  # 11.

* * *


The Critics:
Hitting the Nail on the Head 
Missing the Nail Completely

   In this section I am collecting what various critics have said about CR. On the left you will find statements which, in my humble opinion, really hit the nail on the head. On the right I have collected what is, from my point of view, remarkably stupid criticism that does not hit the nail on the head at all - possibly the other way round...

   Holden Caulfield struck me as an urban, a transplanted Huck Finn ... a brilliant tour de force that has sufficient power and cleverness to make the reader chuckle and - rare indeed - even laugh aloud. 
Harvey Breit, 1951

Here is an opinion from a FICTIONAL character:

   Der soll sich mal den Salinger durchlesen. Das ist echt, Leute! Ich kann euch nur raten, ihn zu lesen, wenn ihr ihn irgendwo aufreissen koennt.Reisst euch das Ding unter den Nagel, wenn ihr es bei irgendwem stehen seht, und gebt es nicht wieder her! Leiht es euch aus und gebt es nicht wieder zurück. Ihr sagt einfach, ihr habt es verloren. Das kostet 5 Mark, na und? 

Edgar Wibeau in DIE NEUEN LEIDEN DES JUNGEN W. by Ulrich Plenzdorf

   Holden is bewildered, lonely, ludicrous and pitiful. His troubles, his failings are not of his own making but of a world that is out of joint. There is nothing wrong with him that a little understanding and affection, preferably from his parents, couldn't have set right. Though confused and unsure of himself, like most 16-year-olds, he is observant and perceptive and willed with a certain wisdom. His minor delinquencies seem minor indeed when contrasted with the adult delinquencies with which he is confronted. 
   Mr. Salinger, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker and elsewhere, tells a story well, in this case under the special difficulties of casting it in the form of Holden's first-pezson narrative. This was a perilous undertaking, but one that has been successfully achieved. Mr. Salinger's rendering of teen-age speech is wonderful: the unconscious humor, the repetitions, the slang and profanity, the emphasis, all are just right. Holden's mercurial changes of mood, his stubborn refusal to admit his own sensitive-ness and emotions, his cheerful disregard of what is sometimes known as reality are typically and heart breakingly adolescent. .. 
New York Times, 1951

Another opinion from a FICTIONAL (?!) character:

   "They do still ban Catcher, here in the United States and in Canada too. ..." 
   "I think it's quite charming," Salinger says, his eyes twinkling. "In these days, when anything goes in literature, movies, and even TV, to think there are some places so isolated, so backward, so ill-informed as to what's going on in the world that they can still get all hot and bothered about something as innocent as Catcher. I mean, if there was ever a crusader against sin, it was Holden Caulfield."

from: W.P.Kinsella, Shoeless Joe

   And of course the Catcher's colloquial balancing act is not just something boldly headlined on page one: It is wonderfully sustained from first to last. And so too, it seemed to me, was everything else in the book: its humor, its pathos, and, above all, its wisdom, the certainty of its world view. 
Ian Hamilton, 1988

   Predictable and boring. 
Ernest Jones, 1951

   The reader cannot, finally, identify himself with Holden Caulfield, for Holden is hilariously, ridiculously sick, and the reader lives in a world where adulthood is health. 
John W. Aldridge, 1956

   Jerome David Salinger is an extremely skillful writer, and Holden's dead-pan narrative is quick-moving, absurd, and wholly repellent in its mingled vulgarity, naïveté, and sly perversion. 
Christian Science Monitor, 1951

   ... formidably excessive use of amateur swearing and coarse language... 
Catholic World, 1951

   We live in America. You can like garbage. We just felt there had to be better books out there.
Pam Souza, parent of a Marysville High School student who made the superintendent pull CR 
from the required curriculum in 1997


* * *


Jane Gallagher

   A critic once claimed that Jane "never appears in the book". This is nonsense, of course, since Salinger devotes a whole chapter to her (11), having Holden describe in detail how he met her, how he played checkers with her - one of the most beautiful scenes in the entire novel, in my opinion - , and how he went with her to the movies. Then again, it is "only" a flashback or digression because Holden just remembers past events; although he often thinks of ringing her up, he usually doesn't, and when he does, no one answers the phone. 

   However, it is interesting to speculate as to what might have happened if Holden had actually succeeded in getting in contact with Jane. In fact, when reading certain passages again (e.g. the beginning of chapter 15) I often find myself thinking something like, "Come on, Holden, do it!" - both because I feel it would do him good and because I would very much like to "meet" her. It is interesting to note that, although we learn quite a lot about her, especially in chapter 11, Salinger never has her talk to Holden, and that's a pity. She is so cute, and she is so different from phony people like Sally Hayes, that it would really be a pleasure to see her help Holden. 

   That's what I think. Yet there are those pessimists  - they probably consider themselves realists - who believe that if Holden actually met Jane the extraordinary image of her would be shattered because he idealized her, because she couldn't live up to his expectations, or because she has changed by now and become phony herself. But I don't think so - I think Jane is unique. 

PS.    Three weeks after writing this I bumped into a Catcher Page run by one Tommaso Sciortino, who has a rather ironic and often sarcastic view of CR. He also has a slight tendency towards exaggerating things: For all he knows, when Jane goes out with Stradlater (chapter 4), she "could be a chain smoking, lesbian prostitute by now" ...

* * *


The Secret Goldfish

   On the very first page of CR Holden refers to his brother D.B., mentioning that before he went to Hollywood and sold himself to the film industry he wrote a short story called "The Secret Goldfish". Holden summarizes the plot in 1 sentence, saying that it is about a little boy who does not want anyone to look at his goldfish because he has bought it with his own money. He also adds that he loves the story (PITY I CAN'T QUOTE THIS!!).

   From this very brief outline we can gather that it must be a very cute story indeed. So here's what you can do if you are a teacher (too): 

invite your students to actually write this short story - or do it yourself.

   Yessir, that is quite a challenge - not to mention the fact that you have to choose a certain point of view too...

PS.   Who knows, maybe Salinger has already written the story himself, hiding it in his safe somewhere up there in Cornish, New Hampshire...

* * *


Holden's Language
How to Ignore the Obvious

   Here's a funny thing that 2 critics wrote about the language Holden uses: 

   "The assumption that Holden tries to imitate spoken speech in order to intensify the appeal to the reader is further strengthened by his frequent direct addresses of the reader." (T.Hoops &W.Hoops, source currently unknown)
    This is a strange statement indeed, because either Hoops/Hoops mix up the narrator (Holden) with the author (Salinger), or it is a classic attempt at how to ignore the obvious: To me it is perfectly clear that Holden does not imitate anything, since all the clues in the text (language level, direct address, digressions, etc etc) suggest that this is indeed a spoken text - Holden is  talking to the reader. In point of fact, the word that Holden uses in his very first sentence when addressing his "reader" is "hear" - thus we, his "readers", actually become his listeners from the very beginning. No wonder that, after a very short time, we feel so close to him...

   GOOD GRIEF! On June 18, 2000, I received an email from Canada in which, among other things, the following came up:
   "... I don't believe Holden is speaking aloud because of a remark he makes in the second chapter. He says: "...and I have gray hair. I really do. The one side of my head--the right side--is full of millions of gray hairs." In this quotation, it appears that he is acting as though he does not believe that the listener would believe him about his gray hair. If he were in the same room with the person, however, he could just say: "I have gray hair. (points to his head) See?"

   Now, this is most likely the only clue of that kind in the entire novel, but still - it's a good counter-argument, for Chrissake!

* * *


"Amateur" Opinions

    Here you'll find short comments from ordinary people like you and me - students, the odd teacher, opinions from folks who sent me an email, etc. The comments are anonymous unless people explicitly agree to have their names added. I picked them because it seemed to me that they highlight a certain aspect of CR in an interesting way...

I could relate to Holden 
because I've had almost identical conversations 
with almost identical idiots.
(Geoff Kimbro)
I do believe 
Phoebe is one of the cutest child characters
ever created in literature.
There is definitely a little Holden in all of us.
I wish I had written the book.
There is always one Holden in the crowd.
Everytime I read it I find something new. 
(Adrienne Dunton)
I'm gonna find me the ducks.
We are all "wannabe" Holdens.
No sequels please.

I think that on some level, Holden enraptures the spirit of every person 
during that transition between adolescence and
It comes at different ages, in different circumstances and with different vices, 
but it's one of the few things that every human being has in
 Holden Caulfield is a collage of the "human experience".
(Brandi Wills)
Deep down in everyone there's some crew cut kid who can't stand fakers and likes feeding ducks


 * * *


Chapter Headlines

   The following headlines for the respective chapters might come in handy if you're looking for something... 

1. introduction, standing on that stupid hill 
2. conversation with Spencer 
3. Ossenburger, conversation with Ackley
4. conversation with Stradlater about Jane 
5. Saturday night with Ackley and Mal Brossard; thoughts about Allie 
6. fight with Stradlater 
7. conversation with Ackley 
8. conversation with Mrs Morrow on the train to NYC 
9. NY cab driver; Edmont Hotel, phoning Faith Cavendish 
10.  thinking about Phoebe, the 3 girls from Seattle 
11.  Jane Gallagher 
12.  Horwitz and the ducks, at Ernie's, talking with Lillian Simmons 
13.  thoughts about being yellow, Maurice and Sunny
14.  thoughts about Allie and Arthur Childs; Maurice and Sunny 

15.  making a date with Sally, the two nuns 
16.  the kid singing the song, thoughts about acting, the Museum of Natural History 
17.  date with Sally 
18.  show at Radio City, thinking about Allie 
19.  date with Carl Luce 
20.  getting drunk, the lagoon in Central Park, thinking about Allie's grave 
21.  at home talking to Phoebe 
22.  talking about James Castle, the catcher in the rye 
23.  dancing and talking with Phoebe 
24.  Mr Antolini 
25.  walking up 5th Avenue, planning to go West, the writing on the wall at Phoebe's school and the museum, Phoebe and the carousel 

26.  that's all I'm going to tell about
 * * *

Basic elements of the plot: a diagram

   The following diagram provides information about basic plot elements of CR, to wit: 
- the overall frame/flashback structure 
- the basic setting (time and place) in relation to the respective chapters 


(page 1)


(1949, before Christmas)
ch.1 (p.2) - ch.14
chapters 15 - 24
chapter 25
afternoon - night
Monday morning -
chapter 26



PS.  Good grief! Took me quite some time to figure this out - I'll have to admit it.
  * * *

CR as a picaresque novel

   The Cambridge Guide to Literature in English offers the following definition: "The Spanish picaro was a character from low life, living on his wits ... and at odds with society." The Glossary of Literary Terms by M.H.Abrams complements this by saying that the picaro, which is Spanish for 'rogue', "shows little if any alteration of character through the long succession of his adventures; picaresque fiction is realistic in manner, episodic in structure, and usually satiric in aim." 

   Obviously, there is something of a picaro in Holden Caulfield. For example, as picaresque novels,  CR and also Huck Finn are certainly very episodic in the presentation of their narratives. One can easily find scenes in CR which can be transposed without any great difficulties in terms of the theme or the narrative structure. Also, Salinger often makes use of distinctly satirical methods to criticize the hypocrisy, the materialism, the stupidity and phoniness of certain individuals, or society as a whole. Chapter 17, in which Holden describes the behaviour of people after the first act of a show, is a beautiful case in point: 

      You never saw so many phonies in all your life, everybody smoking their ears off and 
      talking about the play so that everybody could hear and know how sharp they were.
   Luckily, the guy Sally meets couldn't get in the cab with Holden and Sally because "he had to meet a bunch of phonies for cocktails, he said." (Incidentally, that last quote is one of my favourites - I always laugh my head off, even when simply typing it right now.) 
   In January 2001 I got the following email from Henry Craft:

   "One thing that struck me, which you don't seem to mention, is the significance of the "adult" advice from his two teachers, one towards the start of the book and the other towards the end of the book. 
   Seems to me that this point knocks the "picaresque" theory on the head."

   * * *


   The word "phony" is certainly one of Holden's favourites. Here's what an English and an English-German dictionary might say about the word...

pho·ney (also phony)
adj (-ier, -iest) (infml derog) 
(a) (of a person) pretending or claiming to be what one is not: There’s something very phoney about him.
(b) (of a thing) false: a phoney American accent • phoney insurance claims • The story sounds phoney to me.
pho·ney (also phony) 
n (pl -neys or -nies) a phoney person or thing: The man’s a complete phoney.

1. adj., phonier , phoniest 
a) (sham) falsch; gefaelscht «Brief, Dokument»; there's something a bit phoney about the whole thing : irgend etwas an der ganzen Sache ist faul (ugs.); 
b) (fictitious) falsch «Name»; erfunden «Geschichte»;
c) (fraudulent) Schein«firma, -geschaeft, -krieg»; falsch, scheinbar «Doktor, Diplomat, Geschaeftsmann». 
2. n. 
a) (person) Blender, der/Blenderin, die; this doctor is just a phoney: dieser Arzt ist ein Scharlatan;
b) (sham) Faelschung 

NOTE:  Looking at these attempts at translating the word  (and knowing some German) you will probably agree that there is no fitting translation for this key word from CR - which only goes to show how tough the late Heinrich Boell's job was when he translated the whole novel...


   At Studyworld you'll find a very interesting essay about phoniness in everyday life , an issue, as they rightly claim, for us as it was for Holden Caulfield. As a matter of fact, the main part of the essay is about Holden and his attitude towards phoniness and phony people.
   Highly recommended, folks.

March 7, 2007:

Today I got an interesting email from Jack Coonan concerning the origin of the word phoney:

   "Hello... I don't know whether this information is widely available or not, but phoney comes from the Irish word 'fainne' (faun-ya),  meaning ring. This emerged when Irish emigrants to America, from Galway, on the west coast of Ireland were selling rings, purported to be real Galway gold, in New York as fainnes. There is no gold to be mined in Galway, so the rings were fake, or phoneys! Just thought you might be interested!"

Thanks a lot, Jack!

   * * *

Concerning the German translation of CR

   Although Heinrich Boell is a very good author, I do believe that basically his translation of CR is not very convincing, the main reason being that quite often he doesn't hit Holden's slang level adequately. This may partly be due to the fact that he translated it in the fifties, and maybe he had to restrict himself then - I wouldn't know. As a matter of fact, some of my students tore the German translation to pieces, but I believe they overdid it a bit. 
   Here are a few examples: 

  1. "... that David Copperfield kind of crap" is translated into "David Copperfield Zeug", and obviously "Zeug" would have been "stuff" and should have been "Scheiss", most likely.
  2. There is a weird tendency (also in American films which were overdubbed here in Germany!) to translate the past tense into German Praeteritum, which is, however, usually stupid because in colloquial language we just don't use it most of the time. Thus, in the very first sentence of the novel, it says "... was meine Eltern taten...". Actually, nobody says that, certainly not a kid of 17; we would say something like "was meine Eltern (so) gemacht haben".
  3. "Strictly for the birds." (p.2) is translated by "Reines Geschwaetz.". Probably that wasn't even very good in the fifties; these days I would suggest  "Reiner Schwachsinn.". However, I have to give Boell credit: my 1988 dictionary offers only the colloquialism "Das ist für die Katz" - now, that translation really is strictly for the birds...
  4. cont
   Anyway, one thing is perfectly clear to me: it would be a hell of a job to try and translate this novel adequately; for example, if you can think about a little word like "phony" for ages, how long would it take you to translate the whole book and actually have a feeling of having done a good job afterwards? I wouldn't want to do it - I'll have to admit it. 
   What do you think? 

   PS.  Rumour has it that the Japanese translation was especially difficult - no kidding - because apparently that language does not have many swearwords. I wouldn't know about that - do you?

   On May 16, 2001, I received the following email:

   "I wanted to comment on the foreign translations of Catcher. You mentioned that the Japanese version was supposedly difficult to translate because of the lack of swear words. I cannot imagine why there would be any trouble. I have been studying Japanese for three years and I was surprised at the amount of profanity! Their words are very descriptive, and there is street slang to match almost any English swear words. 
   I have yet to run across a Japanese version of Catcher, but if I ever do I will be sure to write and let you know how the translation came out."

   Thanks, Collie-San!

   April 2003: Kiepenheuer & Witsch have published a new German translation of CR, done bei Eike Schoenfeld, which is supposed to be more "courageous" and more slangy than the old one. If anyone has the money to buy that hardcover edition, do write me an email and comment on the language...
   May 2003: Here are the first sentences of the new German translation:

   Wenn ihr das wirklich hören wollt, dann wollt ihr wahrscheinlich als Erstes wissen, wo ich geboren bin und wie meine miese Kindheit war und was meine Eltern getan haben und so, bevor sie mich kriegten, und den ganzen David-Copperfield-Mist, aber eigentlich ist mir gar nicht danach, wenn ihr's genau wissen wollt. Erstens langweilt mich der Kram, und zweitens hätten meine Eltern dann jeweils ungefähr zwei Blutstürze, wenn ich was ziemlich Persönliches über sie erzählen würde. Bei solchen Sachen sind sie ganz schön empfindlich, besonders mein Vater. Sie sind schon nett und so - da sag ich ja gar nichts -, aber sie sind eben ungeheuer empfindlich. Außerdem erzähl ich euch auch nicht meine ganze verfluchte Autobiographie oder so was. Ich erzähl euch bloß von diesem Irrsinnskram, der mir so um letztes Weihnachten passiert ist, bevor es mit mir ziemlich bergab ging und ich hierher kam und es ruhiger angehen lassen musste.

   Interestingly enough, Schoenfeld has translated YOU into IHR, in contrast to Boell's SIE (compare #14 below!)

 * * *

The second word in the novel

   Right! The second word in the novel is YOU. So what? 

   Well, here's what might also interest people who do not know German:

   There are 3 possibilities of translating YOU in this context: 

  • DU - which is used... 

  • a. by little children addressing anybody (also unknown adults) 
    b. by young people talking to each other 
    c. by adults who are close to each other, e.g. friends 
    d. by adults talking to young people or children
  • SIE - which is used...

  • a. by adults addressing other adults who are not their friends 
    b. by young people addressing adults who are not relatives or very close friends (who would, however, use DU when answering) 
  • IHR - which is the plural of DU, like in "Hey Sally and Jane, can YOU..."
   So... the big question is: How would you translate Holden's YOU? In other words, who is he talking to? A friend who is his own age? An adult who is (not) a close friend? As for Heinrich Boell, he decided to use SIE... 

   PS.  One thing is clear, though - although lots of critics got this wrong: Holden is NOT talking to a psychoanalyst, because in the last chapter (2nd paragraph) he talks about him...

in foreign languages

The following languages are referred to below:

  1. Finnish
  2. Afrikaans
  3. Greek
  4. French
  5. Babelfish German
  6. Babelfish English
  7. Spanish
  8. Norwegian
  9. Portuguese
  10. Dutch
  11. Japanese
  12. Russian
  13. Hebrew
  14. Italian
  15. Chinese
  16. Filipino
  17. Turkish
Sept. 18, 2000:

   Today I was informed how YOU was translated into the FINNISH language (no kidding!):

   Plural 'te' (Jos TEITÄ tosissaan huvittaa kuulla...= If you really want to hear about it) , presupposing that Holden is talking to a larger audience.

Nov 16, 2000:

   Just got an email from South Africa:
   "As you mentioned, a lot of the meaning gets lost in the translation. It made me wonder whether someone has ever attempted translating CR into Afrikaans (a native language to SA). It would have similar problems that the German translation is facing. Concerning the second word ‘you': the Afr. Version would be ‘jy', ‘julle' or ‘U', depending on who Holden is talking to. ‘Jy' would be used if he were chatting to a friend (someone his own age); ‘julle' if he were talking to a larger audience and ‘U' is used when a child converses with an adult [this is however only used in formal grammar (if I could call it that!), I guess it would have a similar impact on the translation as the German praeteritum!] or when reference is made to God.
   Since you had a Finnish (wow!) translation to the first phrase, I thought it would only be apt to give an Afrikaans translation! "As julle regtig daarvan wil hoor..." presupposing, once again, that Holden is talking to a larger audience."
   Thanks a lot, Etienne!

15-7-2001:  Here's some information about the Greek translation:

     The first Greek sentence ( using Latin characters) is : "An  thelete loipon st' alithia na t' akousete,...." and the translation in English is : " Well,  if you really  want to hear about it,..." 
   As you can see the Greek translator added the word "well" (in Greek "loipon" ) as if the narrator  continues a previous talk. I don' t know why she ( the translator ) did it.
Anyway, in the Greek language we don' t  usually use the "Furwort" because the verb itself shows the person and the number ( since you know German here is an example from that language : we don't say "du wirst" we just say  "wirst" and we mean you, the one ). The verb is in the plural, and I think it is right since at the end Holden says he regrets he told his story to so many people. 

                                                               Olga Tsangaraki, Crete

Thanks a lot, Olga!

Here's the beginning of the French version:

   Si vous voulez vraiment que je vous dise, alors surement la premiere chose que vous allez demander c'est ou je suis ne...

Note that the French translator opted for "vous" and not "tu", so Holden seems to be speaking to an adult he does not know too well - or he might be talking to a group of people...

July 21, 2001:    Just for fun: Here's how BABELFISH, AltaVista's translation programme, translates the first sentence into German - well, into "German"... :

   WENN SIE REAL mögen zu hören über es, d erst Sache Sie werden wahrscheinlich wünschen zu wissen sein wo ich sein gebären, und was mein lousy Kindheit sein wie, und wie mein Muttersubstanz sein besetzen und all bevor sie haben mir, und all dies David Copperfield Art von crap, aber ich nicht glauben wie gehen in es, wenn Sie wünschen zu wissen d Wahrheit.

Nun, kein der Kommentar...

July 21, 2001:    Still just for fun: Here's the BABELFISH translation of the official German translation by Heinrich Boell back into English:

   If you want to really hear my history, then you would like to know probably above all, where I was born and as I mean verflixte childhood spent and which my parents did, before they were busy with me, and which would give to tell it otherwise still at David Copperfield things, but I did not have desire to tell all this.

Holden, whaddaya mean, for Chrissake?

Aug 3, 2001:    Here comes the Spanish translation:

   Si de verdad les interesa lo que voy a contarles, lo primero que querran saber es donde naci, cómo fue todo ese rollo de mi infancia, qué hacían mis padres antes de tenerme a mí, y demás puñetas estilo David Copperfield, pero no tengo ganas de contarles nada de eso."

Karla Savignon Luttrell (México City) adds on Feb 20, 2002:

The direct translation for singular YOU, in Spanish, would be TÚ; and the plural YOU would be USTEDES. As you can see, neither word is used in the above translation. It's hard to explain why, but I will try by giving you an example: the question Do YOU like it? (YOU being singular) translated to Spanish is Te gusta? and the same question, YOU being plural, would be Les gusta? As much as I would love to give you Spanish grammar lessons, I prefer not to bore you and just finish by saying that the Spanish translator decided that Holden was talking to a group of people.

  Muchas gracias to Victoria from Argentina y Karla from Mexico!

Aug 5, 2001:    An email from Norway:  

   "Here is the first sentence of the Norwegian translation of The Catcher In The Rye (Norwegian title: Hver tar sin - så får vi andre ingen):

   Hvis dere virkelig gider å høre på alt sammen, så er dere vel mest interessert i hvor jeg er født og hva slags dritten barndom jeg hadde, og hva foreldrene mine var før og sånn før jeg kom til, og alt det derre David Copperfield-tullet, men jeg er ikke opplagt til å rote i for mye skitt.

   The Norwegian issue of The Catcher In The Rye was translated by a man called Åke Fen. He received the Norwegian Assocation of Literary Translators's award 'Bastianprisen' in 1953 for his translation. "dere" is YOU - plural form and informal.

   In a review of the novel "Naïve. Super." by the Norwegian author Erlend Loe (it is translated into German) NS is compared to The Catcher In The Rye. Naïve. Super. is one of my favourite books of all time and that's how I became interested in CR."

Thanks so much,  Sunni from Norway!

PS.  A few days later Sunni gave me the following information:
The literal translation of the title is very odd:


Neither Sunni nor I have any idea why they did this. Have you?

August 7, 2001:

"The first sentence in Portuguese is: 'Se querem mesmo ouvir o que aconteceu, a primeira coisa que vão querer saber é onde eu nasci, como passei a porcaria da minha infância, o que meus pais faziam antes que eu nascesse, e toda essa lenga-lenga tipo David Copperfield, mas, para dizer a verdade, não estou com vontade de falar sobre isso.'"

Thanks a lot, Carlos Augusto Mine!

Sept 9, 2001:

"Hello Bernd,
I have three different Dutch translations (by three different translators), the first (1958) uses the singular "je", in the second (1967) "u" is used (same use as in Afrikaanse translation, a language very similar to Dutch), the latest translation again uses "je". Interesting is that David Copperfield kind of crap is never translated using the name DC. The translation in Dutch is: "van dat soort sentimentele gelul" (that kind of sentimental crap)."

Thanks so much, Jente Algoed!


On Aug 22, 2008 I received the following mail:

There are in fact three translations of The Catcher in Dutch, the first of
which was twice reissued under a new title. In all there are five
different titles:

Puber - translation by Henk de Graaff, 1963
puber = adolescent - the word denotes more specifically the younger
adolescent - poor Holden: he sometimes acts a lot older than he is - he
really does - but people never notice it

De kinderredder van New York -  same text as Puber, 1967
= New York's Child Saviour

Eenzame zwerftocht – same text again, no year
= Lonesome Wandering

De vanger in het koren – Max Schuchart 1978
= The Catcher in the Corn ('corn' comprising all cereal plants)

De vanger in het graan – Johan Hos 1989
= The Catcher in the Grain

The finest of these translations I find Max Schucharts. Yes, his second
word is 'u', but in Dutch this is less formal than German 'Sie'. I am one
of many in my generation (1955) who always said and say 'u' to their
parents and who consistently use it as the default form when speaking to
strangers. Had Holden been a Dutch corporate lawyers son he would
(notwithstanding all his goddams, for Chrissakes etc.) until recently
naturally have said 'u' when adressing the reader(s) or an imaginary

Schuchart has replaced David Copperfield by A.M. de Jongs Merijntje
Gijzen. This is an attempt at inculturation I am not very pleased with.
For all their merits the four Merijntje Gijzen books are no David
Copperfield. There is nothing like Dickens and in the invention of CR
David Copperfield probably played a significant role. Just read Dickens
preface, on the saddening effect of publication, and then reread CR's last
chapter. Or lay DC's table of contents alongside CR's first page. DC was
written in 1849-1850... Salinger must have been well aware that exactly
one hundred years later he was trying to give to the 20th century not only
a New York Christmas Carol, but also a counterpart to David Copperfield
(and Pip, of course). Dickens brought his glorious grand scale novel
technique to the job, Salinger his equally magnificent short story
technique. The result was quite a different book, but I think there's no
denying the element of emulation.

Thanks so much, Max Staudt!


Sept 13, 2001: An email from Motoko-San:

"The Japanese title of CR is "Rye-mugi Batake de Tsukamaete". The first sentence in Japanese is as follows:

'Moshimo Kimi ga Honto ni Kono Hanashi wo kikitai nara, Mazu Boku ga Doko de umareta toka, Chachi-na Yonen-Jidai ha Don-na datta toka, Boku ga umareru Mae ni Ryoshin ha Nani wo yatte-ita toka, So-itta David Copperfield-Shiki no kudaranai Koto kara kikitagaru kamo Shirenai-kedo sa, Jitsu wo Iu-to, Boku ha Son-na Koto ha shaberi-taku nain-dana.'

According to the Japanese translation I have, a singular form is used. In Japanese, "Kimi" means YOU and this is singular. "Anata" is also singular, which is formal style. When you want to use plural form, you can add "-tachi" at the end, like "Kimi-tachi" or "Anata-tachi"."

Thanks a lot, Motoko!

Grisha Levit, 18.9.2001:

Here is the Russian translation (in Latin characters):
Esli vam na samom dele hochetsia uslishat' etu istoriu...
With a plural, or respectful 'you'.

additional info from Olga  Semyvolos on 28.11.2001:

In Russian you is used as the one to address a larger audience. Another interesting point is that the verb to express 'want' is used in the so called impersonal mood. It creates a distance between the narrator and the audience, makes it easier for the audience to opt out.


Ann 9.12.2001:

my name is Ann, I'm from Ukraine.  I've got the first sentence of the novel in Russian:

"Esli vam na samom dele khochetsa uslishat' etu istoriyu, vi, navernoye prezhde vsego zakhotite uznat', gde ya rodilsya, kak provel svoye duratskoye detstvo, chto delali moi roditeli do moyego rozhdeniya, - slovom, vsiy etu David-kopperfildovskuyu mut'. No, po pravde govorya, mne ne okhota v etom kopatsa."

The second word 'you' is translated as 'vi' (sometimes it changes to 'vam') that means that the guy is talking to some older man or a group of people. I can also translate it back to english...

"If you really want to hear this story, maybe you will first of all want to know where I was born, how I spent my silly childhood, what my parents had done before I was born, - for short, all that David Copperfield dregs. But frankly speaking, I don't want to rummage about it."


28.11.2001 Hebrew:

im atem beemet  rotzim lishmoa al kol hainyan, az ma shebatuch tirtzu ladat kodem kol ze eyfo noladety

he applies his speech to a large audience, speaking in multi-form
Best regards,
Amir Dolev

additional info: 13.12.2001:

In hebrew, but english letters:

Im atem be'emet rots'im lishmo'a al kol ha enyan, az ma shebetach terzu lada'at kodem-kol, ze eifo noladeti, ve eich haita ha yaldut sheli, ve ma asu hahorim sheli lifney sheholidu oti, vekol ha zevel haze me hasug shel "David Copperfield", aval lo mitchashek li ledaber al ze yoter midy.

Pretty correct translation from hebrew to english:

If you (plural) really want to hear about the whole deal, then what you definately want to know first, is where I was born, and how was my shitty childhood, and what my parents did before they gave birth to me, and all that "David Copperfield" type of trash, but I don't feel like talking about it very much.

The you (atem) is written in a plural body, where "ata" would be it's singular form. I'm looking forward to reading the original english version. 
Yoav Jacobi.


Bianca Adam, 6.12.2001:

here's the Italian translation:" Se davvero avete voglia di sentire questa storia,magari vorrete sapere prima di tutto dove sono nato e come é stata la mia infanzia schifa e che cosa facevano i miei genitori e compagnia bella.."

well,as you can notice ,plural is used(avete)....i also have to say that the italian translation really sucks,i mean...a lot of the meaning gets lost and it's definitely less funny!!

c-ya, bianca

addl info by Luciano:

"Se davvero avete voglia di sentire questa storia, magari vorrete sapere prima di tutto dove sono nato e com'è stata la mia infanzia schifa e che cosa facevano i miei genitori e compagnia bella prima che arrivassi io, e tutte quelle baggianate alla David Copperfield, ma a me non mi va proprio di parlarne."

the "you" is implied, not written



hey, i read how you would like the first sentence of Catcher in the Rye of various languages translated and sent to you so without further ado, here is the Chinese (Mandarin) version, bear in mind i am a second generation Chinese-Canadian and apologize for any mistranslations:

"If you want to hear my story, you probably want to know about my birthplace, my details, place of birth."

A kinder, less cynical Holden Caulfield no?

Richard Tseng



Sept 1, 2007:

Hi, I came across your website and found it very interesting, especially the translation part. The Chinese translation of Catcher seems a little incomplete, however, so here is my own.


I don't know if your computer shows Chinese characters, so these characters might just be like a bunch of blocks to you. This is what it would mean:
If you really want to understand this incident, the first you'll want to know is probably things like my birthplace, my boring childhood, in addition to what my parents did before I was born...that kind of stuff. To be honest, I don't really want to tell.

In Chinese the plural form is differentiated from the singular form by adding a character "
" (pronounced "menn"). For example, the Chinese "me" is  written "", and to make it "us", we would add "", making it "我們". Since Chinese is a completely different branch of language than English, when translating, the words have to get shifted around for it to make sense.

I hope this helps- Sarah Lian

Thanks a lot, Sarah Lian!

Jan 5, 2002: Just got an email from the Philippines:

  "...i was exploring through your site and i saw that you were looking for translations. well, i'm not an expert but i did try to translate it to FILIPINO. here it goes...

     "Kung nais mo talagang marinig ito, malamang ang unang bagay na gusto mong malaman ay kung saan ako ipinanganak, at kung gaano kawalang kwenta ang aking kabataan..."

("if you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where i was born, and what my lousy childhood was like...")

Thanks, Gisela O!

March 29, 2002:  Hi Bernd; I guess you'll be interested in this, so here is the Turkish version of the first 2 sentences: (this is supposed to be in Turkish characters, but this is still similar) Title: CAVDAR TARLASINDA COCUKLAR (kids in the rye field :)  
(Amazing how they change the title!  B.W.)

"Anlatacaklarimi gercekten dinleyecekseniz, herhalde once nerede dogdugumu, rezil cocuklugumun nasil gectigini, ben dogmadan once annemle babamin nasil tanistiklarini, tum o David Copperfield zirvaliklarini filan da bilmek istersiniz ama ben anlatmak istemiyorum. Herseyden once, ben bu zirvaliklardan sikiliyorum."

The "you" in the first sentence is to a plural audience. Well, in Turkish, the subject is added as a suffix to the verb, so it's kind of complicated, but this you Holden's referring to is either, a plural form of you, or like the respectful Sie in german, when you are talking formal. But I suppose it's to a large audience.

Tesekkür ederim, Gizem Turkarslan!
  * * *

A Gift for Holden

   Recently I got an email from someone who had been assigned a school project where he had to hand-make a gift for Holden which has some significance. He was wondering whether I had any suggestions, and I thought the whole thing was a pretty neat idea in the first place, so I started to think about it...
   Suppose it is you that Holden speaks to in the resthome in California, and for some reason you want to give him a present. What would he be pleased about? Obviously the gift one would choose for him would have a lot to do with the (personal) view one gets of Holden throughout the novel.
   Anyway, I came up with 2 ideas:

  • In chapter 15 Holden meets the nuns, and they belong to the very few people whom he spontaneously likes and admires. So how about making a STRAW BASKET (I don't know what they look like because we don't have these Salvation Army people here in Germany) with a copy of ROMEO AND JULIET in it? (You might want to read those pages again so as to get an idea why he likes them and what he likes about them...)
  • How about a little WOODEN CAROUSEL? In chapter 25 Holden watches Phoebe on the carousel, and that's one of the most symbolic scenes in the entire novel. (On my LINKS subpage there's a link to a site where you can see a photo of the actual carousel in Central Park...)
PS. How about YOU suggesting a present?  Email me and I'll add it to the list if it's a good idea.
  • Give Holden a really nice suitcase - Justin Berger, Sept 99
  • You could give Holden the record that he broke that he was going to give to Phoebe.
  • Give him a new camels hair jacket... to make up for the one that got stolen
  • a good gift for Holden would either be getting his brother Allie resurrected (he loves his brother obviously) or to get Jane for him : )  -Allison, Mar 2000
  • I'm not sure if what I have in mind could be considered a "present." It's definitely not a tangible, material object, but more of a feeling or a state-of-mind. Kind of like the small gifts that Phoebe gives to Holden that make him understand the individual significance of being a child and being an adult, and appreciating the two as separate entities to cherish instead of a droll routine of life. With that said, the one thing I would like to give Holden, that I feel would be significant to his life, is a job. Not any job, however. I would like to give Holden the job of a Little League Coach. It symbolizes his need to be a role model for children who will experience the same coming of age that he did. Instead of standing at the cliff and catching the children as they play about, he can teach and coach them during a very memorable part of childhood. He can be an active part of each child's life and "guide" them through the hard parts, as opposed to shoving them back into the proverbial "rye" of childhood. He can be, to other children, the inspirationthat his father failed to be in his life.
    (Brandi Wills, April 2000)
  • Randy Caouette, Aug 2000:   Easy - a book on duck migration!
    (Randy, you've hit the nail on the head!)
  • I would suggest to give Holden a checkers game board. However, I would permanently glue kings to the back row to remind him of Jane. (anonymous, Jan 2001)
  • Anne from Medina, MN (Jan 2001):   
    I say give Holden a mirror.  He needs to find himself.
    Give Holden a chance to say goodbye to Allie.  He still hasn't let him go.  
    Give Holden a child's blanket.  he needs a little innocence back.
    Give Holden a life at home.  A family who loves him. And a chance to restart his life.

  • I would give him some type of stone duck.  He never finds them in the book. (Chris Harvey, Jan 2001)
  • ..i'd have to give him a baseball glove with poetry written on it. "nothing
    gold can stay" by robert frost is a good start...
    (john weaver, Mar 2001)
  • cont

* * *


"I was only horsing around, naturally."

   There is a lot of symbolism in CR which enhances the meaning of the novel. First, though, here is a good definition of 'symbol':

A symbol is something CONCRETE - an object, an action, etc - that stands for something ABSTRACT, i.e. an idea.
   Thus, there are conventional symbols which everybody knows - e.g. the cross, which stands for Christianity, the rose, which symbolizes love, a white dove, which stands for peace, etc.
   In CR we have a number of symbols which are fresh or original and which get their deeper meaning from the context of the novel. In chapter 3 there is a prime example. On a concrete level, the following happens: Holden pulls the hunting hat over his eyes and pretends he is going blind. He gropes around, claiming everything is getting dark in there and asking his mother to give him her hand. Ackley is sore and tells him he is nuts; then Holden tells the reader/listener, "I was only horsing around, naturally."
   Or was he? In fact, what Holden says and does here unintentionally (though intended by the author!) reflects the state he is in:
- he has nowhere to go
- he cannot see where he is going in life
- he does need a "guiding hand"
- he will wander around aimlessly (aimlessly?) in N.Y.C., which is foreshadowed here
   Thus we have a concrete action symbolizing something abstract within the context of the novel. And - ironically - when Ackley says to Holden, "For Chrissake, grow up.", he may be right, but the question is: How? And in what direction?
* * *

The "Little Shirley Beans" Record

   Holden's love for his sister Phoebe is reflected in his effort to get "Little Shirley Beans", the record that "was about a li|tle kid that wouldn't go out of the house because two of her front teeth were out and she was ashamed to" (chapter 16). He says it was made about 20 years ago and explains why he thinks the singer, Estelle Fletcher, is so exceptional. When he succeeds in getting it in a record store on Broadway, he is very happy - for a change.
   Then, in chapter 20, he drops it when entering Central Park, and he almost cries.He puts the pieces into his pocket, although he claims "they weren't any good for anything", but that's Holden, of course. In fact, they are still a symbol of his love for Phoebe, and when he gives her the pieces in chapter 21, Phoebe in her reaction is as exceptional as the record, because she wants to save the pieces and puts them into a drawer, which "kills" Holden.

   NOTE:   I got an email the other day from a person who was wondering how or where to get hold of that record. That made me kind of curious, so I checked around in the Internet, but the search engines I tried did not know any Estelle Fletcher. However, when I looked for "Shirley Beans", I found the following url: .If you go to that site and if you have real audio you can click on "Shirley Beans" and listen to the song sung by "Milhous" - which is apparently a Chicago band...
   Now, if anybody knows anything about this record, I'd appreciate it a lot if they sent me an email .
* * *

Phoebe on the Carrousel:
The Turning Point

   Some critics have claimed that there is no real change in the novel, i.e. that the scenes are basically interchangeable (cp. also #11 about the picaro).
   In my opinion, this is certainly not true regarding a crucial scene in CR: Phoebe riding on the carrousel in chapter 25, which represents the main turning point in the novel.
   Up to this point, it has been Holden's dream to be the catcher in the rye. That means he would like to stand on the edge of the cliff and keep the kids from falling over the cliff. This becomes perfectly clear in chapter 22 when Holden explains his wish to Phoebe. Obviously, this is a metaphor for Holden's desire to keep innocent children from being destroyed by the phony adult world, by the "Fuck you"s on the walls, etc. (Ironically, Phoebe tells him that he got the words of the song wrong in the first place, because it is not "catch" but "meet". Thus his dream already crumbles a bit because there is no catcher in the song.)
   Then, in chapter 25, Phoebe gets on the carrousel, and Holden just watches her (!). (In fact, he emphasizes this 3 times!) He is afraid that she might fall off when grabbing for the gold ring. HOWEVER, he suddenly realizes that you just have to let kids do it. "If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them." Thus, on a symbolic level, the reader gets to know that Holden has realized that his dream is unrealistic: you/he cannot keep children from growing up and making their own (negative) experiences. (Incidentally, falling off a horse is certainly less dangerous than falling off a cliff.)
   The idea that this is definitely a turning point in the novel is also underlined by the fact that Holden feels "so damn happy" - which he says twice - and that he wishes we could have been there.

   NOTE:   At  I found the following information about the gold ring which I found very interesting. On March 24, 2001, they gave me permission to quote that bit from their extensive information on CR. Thanks a lot, campusnuts!

Did You Know?

   In the heyday of carousels, each came equipped with a device, mounted a few feet away from the carousel, that could dispense metal rings about the size of a bracelet. If you were sitting on one of the horses on the outside row, you could lean way out and grab one of these rings. Most were just gray lead rings, but if you got a gold-colored brass ring, you were allowed to ride again for free. This is where we get the phrase “to reach for the brass ring,” meaning to go all out to win. The practice was eventually discontinued because kids would often fall off the carousel while reaching out to grab the rings. 
   This is what Holden is referring to near the end of chapter 25. J.D. Salinger uses this to suggest that Holden has accepted that he can’t protect everyone, and has to let them learn from their own mistakes.

   14-3-2010: Come to think of it: A scene at a caroussel as the turning point is a neat, symbolic idea ...
* * *

A Thorough Reading?!

   You must have noticed it already: The summary I wrote on this page (see #1) is a complete fake. There are 24 mistakes in there - most of them highly absurd - which I put in there deliberately for 3 reasons:
   1. People who know CR very well must have realized it immediately and should have some fun identifying the absurd distortions of certain details - e.g. Mrs Antolini's spaghetti.
   2. People who know CR fairly well must have thought, "Really?! What's this guy talking about? I don't recall anything like that...". These people could still use this "summary" and test themselves by trying to figure out which aspects are wrong.
   3. People who actually "used" this summary instead of reading this terrific book itself -  in spite of my introductory warning that it was " NOT supposed to replace a thorough reading of the novel itself" - well...

   Now, if you are interested in finding out whether the deviations you found in the "summary" are correct (this sounds paradoxical), go to the page I added called
If you really want to know the truth

   By the way, I really enjoyed making this up - I'll have to admit it...

Or, if you are interested in the reactions of people to the summary, go to
Praise for the "Summary"

Oct 5, 2008:
If you want to hear someone read out that atrocious summary (with a slight German accent), go to

this video at youtube

Then again, you can also watch it here:


   NOTE: I am indebted to Luke Seemann, owner of the late Holden Server , who seems to have had this neat idea in the first place. After writing my "summary" I found out how to access his (in spite of the fact that the Holden Server had to shut down). Unfortunately that is no longer possible.
* * *
Essays and Thoughts by Various People

   Feb 7, 2000.   This special sub-section was created because one of those students who emailed me for advice on a CR essay later sent me her essay and suggested presenting her and other people's essays on this website. (Thanks a lot for that idea, Karika.) 

Topics so far:

  1. Theme and Setting in CR
  2. To Study or Not to Study (a poem)
  3. Language in CR
  4. Innocence
  5. A New Ending of the Novel
  6. (cont)
Therefore, if you are interested, go to 
Essays and Thoughts by Various People .
* * *


Ideas for Papers, Creative Writing, etc

   Here are some ideas or suggestions for essays, papers, etc. Some of them, by the way, also refer to external aspects.
   If you also have suggestions, why not send me an email or two?

  1. How precocious can you get?  OR:  A comparison between Phoebe Caulfield and Esmé (from "For Esmé - with Love and Squalor")

  2. Holden's ambivalent attitude towards Sally Hayes

  3. A comparison of the various front covers of CR

  4. The significance of James Castle (chapter 22)

  5. A comparison between CR and the two short stories the novel is partly based on: "I'm Crazy" (1945) and "Slight Rebellion off Madison" (1946)
    (with special emphasis on the point of view technique)

  6. CR:  more than 50 years after its publication - entirely out of date?!

  7. The significance of the nuns (chapter 15)

  8. The significance of the Museum of Natural History (chapter 16)

  9. "We were too much on opposite sides of the pole":   Holden and Spencer (chapter 2)

  10. Points of View: A comparison between Salinger's CR and Charles Webb's The Graduate (with some observations concerning the movie version)

  11. CR and satire:  Holden's ironic comments on society

  12. Salinger and Internet copyright: The Holden Server and Stephen Foskett's Bananafish

  13. Banning CR: a sensible decision?!

  14. Comparing Heinrich Boell's old German translation of CR with the new one

  15. Is a new Bavarian translation of CR overdue? (sorry, just kidding)

  16. Holden and the cab driver (chapter 12): a very hilarious conversation with a deeper meaning

  17. Salinger and The Catcher in the Rye in Kinsella's novel Shoeless Joe

  18. "...that David Copperfield kind of crap": comparing the exposition of CR with the one in Dickens' David Copperfield

  19. Similarities and differences: comparing CR with "I am a Rock" by Simon and Garfunkel

  20. The Catcher in the Rye describes both a literal and figurative journey. Discuss. (Hilton Shak, South Africa)
  21. Reading between the lines: Analyse Holden's note to Spencer (chapter 2) in terms of what it reveals about his character.

  22. Why does Holden not get in contact with Jane? 
    (Is it because he is afraid "she could be a chain smoking, lesbian prostitute by now"?!  ;-)   (quote by Tommaso Sciortino, see section 5 above)

  23. Holden and Jane's relationship is very similar to the one between The Lady and The Tramp (you know, that famous Disney movie about the two dogs...). Discuss.
    (Thanks to John Lohmoeller for this  crazy idea!  ;-)

  24. Pencey and "Hell-ton": A comparison between CR and Peter Weir's film DEAD POETS SOCIETY

  25. Holden lost between the adult world and his childhood

  26. Have students take photos of something which is somehow connected with CR.
    (Here is an example: I took the following photo in Jan 2005. It shows a playground in my hometown here in Germany, just 200 yards from my house. In my opinion, the connection to the writing on the wall ("fuck you", chapter 25) which Holden wants to rub out is striking (and depressing)...


  27. When Stradlater tells Holden to go down and see Jane Gallagher (chapter 4), Holden does not do it.
    Rewrite the novel at that point: Holden does go down, meets Jane, and they talk (Holden might for example ask Jane to go to Vermont with him - Jane's reaction could be entirely different from Sally's in chapter 17!)

  28. cont

* * *


The Ending of the Novel

   In July 2000 the following exchange of emails took place.

Julian Gross: (jgross(at)

   I know it's too complex to easily pigeonhole, but did you find the ending
basically happy or sad? It kind of seems happy, b/c Holden at the carousel
becomes truly happy for the first time in the book, and rejects the
self-destructive (in all likelihood) flight to the west, and its
concomitant rejection of society. But the subsequent portrait of the
vibrant Holden holed up in an institution is, of course, pretty depressing.
The institution might be a nice place for Holden to get a start on his
true challenge: to find a way to derive meaning from society and ongoing
happiness from others, despite society's intrinsic banality and people's
obvious selfishness and other assorted flaws. The institution seems like
it might be a place for Holden to start to do this ... but it's not.
Holden's psychoanalyst keeps asking Holden if he's going to "apply himself"
back at school in the fall -- sounds like one of the narrow-minded
authority figures that drove Holden to this point. And the thought that
Holden will be back at another prep school in the Fall ... as I say, pretty

   What do you think? Do you see any hope for Holden?

Bernd Wahlbrinck:

   Boy, that s a tough question. Actually, I don't know either, it's very ambivalent, just like you describe it. My feeling is that it's more an upbeat ending, but still...  maybe it s also a sort of weak ending - I mean there are people who don't like it because it's too vague or too open or so. Actually, I am just being reminded here of the weak ending of Huck Finn, though that's certainly weaker than this one...
Sorry if that s a "weak" answer, too.

Julian Gross:

   I don't actually think that the ending is "weak" from a literary
perspective. I think any amibguity is simply a product of the complexity
of the issue at hand. The ending may in fact speak strongly and quite
differently to different people -- I bet we'll see just that if you post
the question. From a purely literary point of view, I would take this as a
strength, rather than a weakness.

* * *



   In September 2000 myself and Suzanne Morine, well-known owner of such sites as  Exploring the Catcher in the Rye , had the following exchange of emails concerning Holden's teacher, Mr Spencer (cp. chapter 2): 


   I never understood why Holden was so angry about Spencer reading out that "crap" note, because I always thought it was cute and so typical of Holden. Thus, I have a hunch Holden wasn't sore at Spencer but at JDS - because JDS was the one who had to put it into the book ;-)

SUZANNE MORINE: (you can email her at Suzanne Morine)

   I understand Holden on that. This is how I see it. Holden tells how sarcastic (and even nasty) Spencer was being during this visit. And Spencer touched the paper like it was a turd. Also, Spencer said he'd like to put some sense into him and kept asking questions that were more about provoking him than about getting to know him and his troubles. 
   I think Spencer felt bad (as Holden says) and frustrated. The failing grade wasn't due to any lack of intelligence or curiosity for the truth in Holden. I imagine Spencer wishing more students were like Holden yet being frustrated that Holden wasn't able to get interested enough, even in his own education, to even pass the course. Holden could see Spencer felt bad and appreciated Spencer and his wife having boys over for hot chocolates. In fact, Holden appreciated Spencer's efforts enough that he would have visited to say good bye even if Spencer had not sent for him. Spencer hoped that some sneering and a lecture would put Holden right. That was Spencer's end of their "pole."
   But on Holden's end of the "pole," there he was, sitting with a sick man on a very cold day, being sneered at for a consideration: letting Spencer know that he didn't blame him at all for his failure -- the failure was Holden's alone and he knew it and wanted to make sure Spencer knew it. Holden would have been better off not being so considerate, better off not writing that note and for not visiting.
   Holden gets taken down a peg for caring and for being engaged -- as a repeated occurence, and I'm sure not just in the book. I mean, I think the things that go on in the book don't take him by surprise at all. Stradlater beats him up for caring about Jane. Maurice beats him up for caring about fairness (I don't think Holden gave a damn about the five bucks, he is more offended by the disregard of fairness and honesty than about losing five bucks). The cabbie gets sore at Holden for caring about the ducks. So Holden's like, "Here we go again, I'm getting slammed for my values." (I know the feeling. I'd be thinking, "Well, I guess I'm supposed to be so impressed by your sneering, Mr. Spencer, that I'll give up on consideration. No, I'm not impressed at all. Thanks a lot.") I think that part of Holden's anger is that, in his life, he is repeatedly put down for his values yet he has rarely seen anyone shaming phoniness. He knows that big phony studying enough to pass tests would not get the turd treatment. 
   On some level, he knows that balance is the answer -- he seeks out Phoebe. People aren't giving him balance, just the other end of the pole. They don't know any more than he does yet act like they are wise and he is a fool.

* * *


Just for Fun:

Catcher in the Rye  Quiz

   Interested in a little quiz about CR? With questions concerning details of the novel which are not exactly relevant, but which provide a challenge nonetheless?

  OKAY!!  Click on this link to get to the QUIZ!

   WARNING!   Beware - this is not a quiz like, "What's the name of Holden's kid sister?"   Rather, it is for people with an intimate knowledge of the novel - you know, the aficionado type...

* * *


The Catcher:  73,000 Words in a Row

   Writing a novel is a cinch: you just put lots of words in a row. Not even necessarily different words - maybe there are only around 15,000 different words in CR - probably less. Usually all these words (apart from the odd name) already exist, so you do not have to be inventive either.

   Stupid thoughts? Maybe. Then again, I believe it is interesting to think about this for a while, because in a sense it is also mind-boggling...

   Of course, there is a tiny difference between lots of words in a row and a novel. Here's what someone said about 2,300 years ago:

The whole is more than the sum of its parts.
ARISTOTLE, Metaphysica 10f-1045a

   Below you'll find a number of words from CR and how often they appear in the novel...

TOTAL NUMBER OF WORDS  (approx) 73,921  
school 66  
friend(ly) 24  
Christmas 33  
museum 18  
Sally 54  
Jane 50 (funny - fewer than Sally's)
fuck   6  
nun(s) 14  
Allie 38  
Phoebe 116


phony 36  
goddam 245 including people like Stradlater using it

* * *



Christmas Eve 2001:

   How about this for a present? Imagine J.D. Salinger had THE CATCHER IN THE RYE  PART  II  in one of his drawers! That would of course be some present - or would it?

   Anyway, I created a poll about this, and if you are interested you can vote and/or comment on this topic.


Do you wish Salinger had THE CATCHER IN THE RYE PART II in one of his drawers?


Current Results

* * *


The Title of the Novel in Foreign Publications

   16.7.2002. It's weird - sometimes the title of the novel is changed in foreign publications, so I thought it might be interesting to find as many as possible...

   NOTE:   If you know the title of CR in other language publications (apart from those below), please send it to me INCLUDING THE LITERAL TRANSLATION, possibly with your own comments! Thank you.

Languages so far (the translations follow below):

  1. German

  2. Norwegian

  3. Turkish

  4. Spanish

  5. French

  6. Bavarian

  7. Dutch

  8. Italian

  9. Portuguese

  10. Japanese

  11. Catalan

  12. Hungarian

  13. Russian

  14. Danish

  15. Swedish

  16. Polish

  17. Mandarin Chinese

  18. Romanian

  19. Icelandic

  20. Hebrew

  21. Finnish

  1. German:
    - which is the literal translation of the original title
  2. Norwegian:
    Hver tar sin - så får vi andre ingen
  3. Turkish:
    = Kids in the Rye Field
    I have been told that the first Turkish translation was  GÖNÜLCELEN, which means The Heart Catcher
  4. Spanish:
    El Guardian entre el Centeno
    "guardian" translates into Hüter, Wächter, Wachmann in German;
    guardian, protector, custodian
    in English
  5. French:
    = The Hearts Catcher 
  6. Bavarian:
    Der Narrische auf der Alm
    sorry - just a joke for my German fellow-countryfolk... ;-)
  7. Dutch: 3 different translations:
    a. 1958: Puber  (= Adolescent)
    b. 1967: De kinderredder van New York (literally New York's child saviour)
    c. 1989: De vanger in het graan (The Catcher in the Grain)
  8. Italian:
    Il giovane Holden
    = The Young Holden
  9. Portuguese:
    O Apanhador no Campo de Centeio ( = literal translation)
  10. Japanese 
    Rai Mugi Batake de Tsukamaete
    The literal translation would be something like Catch it in the Rye Field. The Japanese title doesn't specify what's being caught, since a subject is not always necessary, so it is impossible to tell whether they mean it to be a he, she, or it. Rai Mugi is rye, Batake is a variation of hatake, which is field, de would mean at or in, and Tsukamaete is a variation of Tsukamaeru, meaning to catch.

    Thanks, Makiko!

  11. Catalan
    El vigilant en el camp de sègol. 
    This is more or less the literal translation of the title.
  12. Hungarian
    A sharpener of oats. This is an idiom in magyar - 'zabot hegyezni'
    means to do something very pointless equivalent to Taking coal to Newcastle, but more playful in style value.
    (Thanks, Ferenc!)
  13. Russian
    Nad propastju vo rzhi
    It can be literally translated as "over the precipice in the rye". And Russian "propast'" refers to (and is the translation) of the word "cliff", which we read in the novel.
    But in this title there is not the subject. And everything concerned with "catcher, to catch" is absent.
  14. Danish
    Forbandede Ungdom
    It means "Damned Youth"!  Amazing...
    (Thanks, Anna Frederiksen!)
  15. Swedish
    Raddaren i noden
    Meaning "Savior in a Crisis" (!)
    Thanks, Jenny!
  16. Polish
    Buszujacy w Zbuzu
    "Literally it translates: "Romper in the Grain", which is quite a good translation in my opinion as Polish does not have a nice translation for "Catcher". And "romper" does not have a negative meaning, it just describes someone that runs through the grain looking for things."
    Thanks, Niki!
  17. Mandarin Chinese
    It's "mai tian bu shou". There are four words in Mandarin Chinese. The first two words "mai tian" mean "rye field". The last two words mean "catcher". So "mai tian bu shou" in Mandarin Chinese means "the catcher of the rye field", nearly means "a catcher belongs to a rye field" rather than the original meaning "the catcher in the rye".
    Thanks, Alice Kao!
  18. Romanian
    Well, in my language it sounds like this "de veghe in lanul de secara", meaning the one that stands on guard in the rye" because the word catcher has no equivalent in Romanian.
    Thanks, Daniela Barbu!
  19. Icelandic
    In Icelandic the title is: Bjargvætturinn í grasinu, which in direct translation means: The Savior in the Grass. Bjargvættur: someone who saves someone or something (and usually ends up as a hero) í grasinu: in the grass
    Thanks, A. Hilmarsson in Iceland!
  20. Hebrew
    Old 1954 edition, translated by Abraham Danieli:
    אני, ניו יורק, וכל השאר
    Transliterated as A'ni, New York, Ve'kol Ha'Sh'ar
    Literally "Me, New York, and Everything Else."

    1975 edition, translated by Daniel Doron and Abrham Yavin:
    התפסן בשדה השיפון
    Transliterated as Ha'tafsan Besdeh Ha'shipon
    Which means, literally, "the catcher in the rye field."
    Thanks a lot, Dror Lahat!
  21. Finnish
    The title Sieppari Ruispellossa is identical with the original one.
    Thanks for the info, Ville Tavio!

* * *


The Audio Catcher!?

   Jan 16, 2005:    In #7 (see above) I pointed out that for various reasons CR feels like a spoken text, i.e. Holden is talking to us.

   Last week, when students in my advanced English course were reading out parts of the novel – and I was enjoying it – it suddenly dawned on me that there should be an audio cassette or CD version of CR!

   Obviously there is none (I just checked, just to be on the safe side), because Salinger must have objected to it, which is a real pity. Imagine: if one found an excellent narrator, one could just lean back in an armchair or something and actually listen to Holden and get absorbed in his story…

   PS: Who could be that narrator? I was thinking of John Cusack (okay, he is getting older, but then again who isn't?) because I thought of how he talks directly into the camera in HIGH FIDELITY. Or what about Tobey Maguire? What do you think?

* * *



bowdlerize - remove the parts of a book, play etc
that you think are likely to shock or offend people


Ever since J.D. Salinger published The Catcher in the Rye in 1951, the famous novel has been banned in countless libraries and schools all over the planet, particularly in the USA. It was therefore only a question of time until someone would hit upon the idea of bowdlerizing the book.

In the title T. Pardy clearly alludes to the great English philanthropist Thomas Bowdler himself  who in 1807 published the first edition of The family Shakspeare [sic] in which nothing is added to the original Text but those words and expressions are omitted which cannot with propriety be read aloud in a Family.

Since there are numerous offensive and vulgar expressions in Salinger's novel, T. Pardy had a hell of a job to replace them by decent ones. Here are some typical examples:

·       In chapter 1 "that David Copperfield kind of crap" is replaced by "storytelling brought to perfection by Charles Dickens in his famous novel David Copperfield".

·       In chapter 2 one reads, "… old Spencer had on this very sad, ratty old bathrobe that he was probably born in or something." This is substituted by "… Mr. Spencer, well advanced in years, was wearing a somewhat worn out bathrobe he had presumably been given on the day that he was born."

·       In chapter 12 Holden Caulfield meets Horwitz, an irascible taxi driver.  When Holden invites him to a drink, Horwitz answers, "I ain't got no time for no liquor, bud." This coarse wording, which is also - alas! - grammatically incorrect, is replaced by "I fear I do not at present have the time for consuming any alcoholic beverages, my friend."

·       Towards the end of chapter 17 Holden eventually says to Sally Hayes, "You give me a royal pain in the ass." This utterly profane metaphorical expression is replaced by "I am afraid I do not presently enjoy your company."

While these changes appear to be entirely justifiable, there are at times alterations which may cause concern. A case in point can be found in chapter 25 where Holden tries to rub out the f-word on the wall of Phoebe's school. It remains perhaps doubtful whether this obscenity could actually be substituted by "Hi there!".

However, all in all it stands to reason that even Salinger himself would quite possibly have preferred T. Pardy's version of The Catcher in the Rye to his own original one.


T. Pardy
The Bowdlerized  Catcher in the Rye
Tumbleweed Books, 2013
Hardcover, 214 pages
$ 16.95

   PS: I'm sure you've figured it out by now: This is my review of a fictitious book that does not even exist in the first place ...

   If you'd like to get more of this kind of secondary literature, go to my Facebook site

Fabulous Books Looking for an Author: a Fictitious Anthology

   or to my book (mind you, the book does exist!) with 

English and German Reviews of Fictitious Books  

   The book is available at and at, but it can also be ordered directly by sending me an email or two .


* * *




Hold it!  

Why not take a trip to my other sites... 


My new book:



! ! 

* * *

introduction to this website 
about The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
links and recommended

© 1999-2013 by Bernd Wahlbrinck, Home of the Wadel, Germany. 

This work /website, in its entirety, is protected under the copyright laws of the Federal Republic of Germany. 
No part or portion of the contents of this site can be reproduced without written permission of the author.