In recent times, books and magazines have not focused on Salinger for his work. They have covered his romantic trysts, his sustained seclusion, and his relationships with his children.
Salinger's work has been defined in contrasts. His narration and style were innovative, yet he tackles problems that are universal.
Salinger achieved fame with his first novel, The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. Its intense success caused Salinger’s gradual withdrawal from the literary world and from society.
Salinger wrote and published while he served in the military. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1942 and rose from the rank of infantryman to Staff Sergeant. He served in five European campaigns.
Salinger fought in many of the great battles of World War II. He "landed on Normandy during D-Day, fought his way inland, later fought in the imfamous Hurtgen Forest and, after that, the Battle of the Bulge."
Salinger went to great lengths to hide his personal life. He requested of his friends that his letters be destroyed. His friends also complied with his wish that they not talk about him to reporters or biographers.
"In The Catcher in the Rye, the characters symbolize different themes of people in society. Sally is a follower and conforms to the “rules” of society and culture. Holden is a thinker. He questions the world he lives in and rebels against it. Phoebe is leader who sees both sides and binds them together as one."
In The Cather in the Rye, Holden constantly criticizes society, particularly the film industry, and sometimes religion. He proves himself a thinker by his tendency to consider both sides of an argument.
The Catcher in the Rye became a hit amongst the youth of the 1950s. Holden Caulfield became a spokesman for a generation of rebellious, supposedly much-misunderstood youth.
Mark David Chapman was carrying The Catcher in the Rye with him when he shot and killed John Lennon. At his trial, Chapman quoted a famous passage from the novel to justify the murder.