Now I Get Him!

salingerbook Just finished reading a book about one of many favorite authors, J. D. Salinger, author of “The Catcher in the Rye” and others. The authors investigate a most reclusive Salinger in attempt to understand him better and his reasons for writing like he did. Well, I understand now.
Mr. Salinger suffered many losses in his lifetime, mostly of his own self. He served in World War II and witnessed the death of many of his comrades, his friends, and the horrific conclusions from Hitler’s reign. Even before the war, he was seeing a young lady name Oona O’Neil, daughter of playwright, Eugene O’Neil. She abandons him for someone else, much older than her eighteen years: Charlie Chaplin. Yes, that Charlie Chaplin. She let him discover his loss from newspapers. How sad.
Mr. Salinger suffered from PTSD or post traumatic syndrome, as a result of his time in the Army. I honestly believe that began his desire to be isolated from the world, although in small, excruciating steps. He fell in love again with other young ladies, one of whom was suspected of working for the Gestapo.
“The Catcher in the Rye” is about a young man, who is angry at everyone and everything. He has suffered a loss and wishes to save little kids from harm. Salinger, in his own way, was trying to save himself with the many young ladies he dated and those he married. He always chose those who were much younger than him. Mr. Salinger was trying to not only save them but somehow go back to being much younger, when he didn’t have to worry about the ugly side of living. After the war, he sought treatment but in those days, PTSD was not recognized. Options weren’t plentiful for treatment.
Although he also submitted to an eastern religion, Vendata, as a way of trying to soothe himself and justify the hermit like existence he finally arranged for himself, Mr. Salinger was in some ways reaching out to the world beyond his house. Occasionally he’d contact an editor about publishing for him or when a forger tried to exploit him, he would end up in court. The fact that he fought so hard to be private just made living for him that much harder. Constant interruptions from photographers and would be writers only added to his tension. He related to his character Holden Caufield, the narrator of “The Catcher in the Rye” through his loss of a loved one and sensitivity to young people. A form of therapy by exposing himself in the raw through written word.
The authors believe as I do, that Mr. Salinger was relieving himself of the anguish, the horrible tragedy of war, and loss of those he really loved, through Holden Caufield. Mr. Salinger voiced all the feelings he had, all the stress and depression felt, through Holden Caufield. Yes, there is language, but you have to see past the curse words used and see the humanity of the character. In real life, Mr. Salinger wasn’t a great father to children and his lifestyle led to eventual separation from his wife, Claire Douglas. Mr. Shields and Mr. Salerno have done an excellent job of revealing the real J. D. Salinger through interviews with those who knew him.
In 2010, Mr. Salinger finally found peace, separate from this world and into another according to his Hindu beliefs. To quote the great writer himself, “I am in this world, but not of it.” When Mr. Salinger holed up in his home with the fence and “bunker” as it is called in the book, I think he achieved that goal. And he also lost his soul.

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