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The Catcher in the Rye
麦田守望者

Banned by many schools and libraries when first published in 1951, “The Catcher in the Rye” has been courting controversy for half a century. J.D. Salinger’s soul-searching novel of youthful alienation has long since faced down its initially hostile reception. Nowadays it is one of the most frequently taught books in high school English classes in the United States.

In the deeply conservative early 1950s, many Americans were shocked by “Catcher”’s explicit language and open treatment of delicate issues such as psychological instability and sexuality. Most of the controversy nowadays, however, concerns how the book and its precocious1 hero are interpreted.

Holden Caulfield is the 16-year-old schoolboy whose first-person narrative of his mental breakdown over several days forms the basic plot. Critics generally agree that he is the only substantial character in the novel. However, opinions are divided on the outcome of Holden’s constant raging against the hypocrisy2 of the adult world: Some see his eventual acceptance of reality as a positive view of his maturation, while others view his capitulation3 as an indictment of an oppressive society.

The author has fueled controversy himself by remaining a reclusive4 figure who has refused to comment on his work or publish anything further. Whatever his opinions, there is no doubting the book that made him famous presents a challenge to readers who care to contemplate the emptiness and isolation of the human condition.

Holden Caulfield, the central character in “The Catcher in the Rye”, has been compared with Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain’s naive5 adolescent runaway in the novel of the same name. Both boys are trying to make sense of the world while seeking stability and independence.

At the beginning of “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden has just been kicked out of yet another boarding school. Having a few days to kill before returning home for the Christmas break, he hops on a train to New York. There he spends his time wandering aimlessly from one brief encounter6 to another, getting progressively more disgusted with what he calls the phoniness of the adult world.

Holden craves the innocence and simplicity of childhood, while at the same time doing a number of “adult” things such as trying to get a drink in a bar and meeting with a prostitute. Eventually, with the help of his younger sister, he comes to the realization that children cannot be protected forever from the imperfections of the adult world. This is not achieved, however, without Holden first driving himself to the brink7 of insanity.

Like “The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn”, “The Catcher in the Rye” is a coming-of-age8 novel. It is written in the language of its time, yet covers issues that are still relevant to young people today. It is likely to retain its status as a thought-provoking, if somewhat depressing, read for quite some time.


1. precocious a. 早熟的
2. hypocrisy n. 伪善
3. capitulation n. 投降
4. reclusive a. 隐遁的
5. naive a. 天真的
6. encounter n. 遭遇,邂逅
7. brink n. 边缘
8. coming-of-age n. 成年,成熟
 

在1951年首次出版时被许多学校和图书馆列为禁书的《麦田守望者》,半个世纪以来不断引发争议。塞林格的这本描述年轻人疏离感的内省小说自此一直从容地面对开始时对它的敌意。现在,它却成为了美国中学英文课程中最常使用的教材之一。

在极度保守的20世纪50年代初期,“守望者”口无遮拦的粗话,和对心理不稳定状态及性欲等敏感话题的开放态度,使许多美国人为之震惊。然而,现在有关该书的争论则大多围绕如何诠释这本书及书中早熟的主人翁展开。

小说的主人公霍尔顿·考尔菲德是一名16岁的男学生,书中以第一人称的方式叙述了他在几天内精神崩溃的经过,这就是这本书的基本情节。书评家普遍认为,霍尔顿是小说中唯一重要的角色。然而,对霍尔顿对成人世界伪善面目的愤恨的结局,意见出现了分歧:一方认为他最终接受了现实,这是他走向成熟的积极表现;另一方则将他的屈服视为(作者)对沉闷压抑的社会的一种控诉。

这些争议因为作者始终保持隐遁的姿态、拒绝对本书发表评论或进一步出版其它作品而变得更加激烈。无论作者本人持什么意见,这本让他一举成名的著作对于那些有意于仔细思忖人类的状况的空虚和孤独的读者来说,无疑是一大挑战。

《麦田守望者》的中心人物霍尔顿,时常被拿来与哈克贝利·费恩──马克吐温的同名小说(中译本为《哈可贝利·费恩历险记》)中那名天真无邪的少年脱缰之马做比较。两个男孩都在寻求安定和独立的过程中,试着弄懂人世的意义。

在《麦田捕手》故事开始时,霍尔顿又一次被一所寄宿学校开除。还得熬上几天才能回家过圣诞假期,于是他跳上了一辆开往纽约的火车。在纽约,他终日漫无目的地闲逛,在经历了一次又一次短暂的邂逅和遭遇之后,他对被他称为“虚假”的成人世界越来越反感。霍尔顿渴望孩提时代的天真和单纯,同时他却又做着许多“大人”才做的事,譬如试图在酒吧里喝酒,还到过妓院。最后,在妹妹的帮助下,他终于明白了:孩子不可能总受到保护,而远离不完美的成人世界。然而,要不是霍尔顿先把自己推向疯狂的边缘,他也不可能会有这种认识。

《麦田守望者》跟《哈克贝利·费恩历险记》一样,都是成长纪事小说。尽管它是按当时的语言写成的,却仍然包含了许多与现在的年轻人相关的问题。这本书虽然有点压抑,但作为一本发人深省的读物,它势必在相当长的一段时间里保持其地位。

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