There have been a quite a few murders that have been associated in some way to The Catcher in the Rye. The book seems to be favoured by the psychotic; the book itself doesn’t cause people to have psychotic behaviour but some of the themes in the book appeal and relate to people with mind states similar to the main character, Holden Caulfield.
In 1981 John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan. Coincidentally, Hinckley’s favourite book was The Catcher in the Rye as well; the police had found it along with a few other books in his room when they searched for evidence.
The Catcher in the Rye had a lot of influence on Mark David Chapman, who on December 8th 1980 killed music legend John Lennon. Chapman had issues at home when he was growing up which lead him to become very lonely and depressed. A friend of his recommended that he read The Catcher in the Rye; it quickly became his favourite book. He felt like he could identify with the main character; he even wanted to change his name to Holden Caulfield. The night he assassinated Lennon, he carried the book with him. Once he shot John four times, he proceeded to sit down and read the book until the police came to take him away. Chapman was heard quoting his favourite book at his sentencing. One of his reasons for killing John Lennon was because he thought he was a “phony” because he lived such a luxurious lifestyle while he would talk a lot about non-materialism.
Another case was Robert John Bardo who, in 1989, went to actress Rebecca Schaffer’s apartment with a gun and a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. He had been stalking her for some time, and when he got to her apartment, he shot and killed her. At the time, he wasn’t aware that Chapman had also carried a copy of the book with him when he committed his murder.
All these individuals had something in common - a connection with the book. They all felt they could relate to its themes, and to how the main character Holden feels.


The novel was first published in 1951. It had some popularity at first but then quickly plummeted in sales before shooting up to the top of the charts. The book rocketed to number one on the best seller list of The New York Times. Catcher In The Rye made it on the "Top Ten Most Banned Books" list. Between the years 1965 and 1975, the novel was the most banned book in high schools. Some people were so offended by the book that they burned as many copies of it as possible. In 1981 the novel was both the most censored and the second most taught. The main reasons brought up for the book being censored are: the large amount of profanity, sexual references, smoking, and underage drinking.

Even now Catcher In The Rye is still being banned form schools. The reasons remain the same except that there is more to draw off of. There have been several famous murderers that have brought negative attention to the novel, which only helps prove that the novel is a very bad influence on people (particularly teenagers) who read the book. Although there are still appeals to have the book banned today, all of the reasons are common. The novel remains on the top ten most banned books of all time and is most likely to stay there.


J.D. Salinger's Catcher In the Rye was very controversial, as the pages held numerous amounts of questionable content. It made a lot of Americans feel uncomfortable – mainly because of all the swearing, the cynicism, etc – and they tried to get the book banned. Their attempts were successful, and from 1961-1982, the book was (temporarily) banned. Some Americans felt so threatened by the book that when a teacher assigned the book to his grade eleven class in 1960, he was fired. He later got his job back, but it shows the extremes people went to to keep teens (or anyone else) from reading the book. Even in another decade, 1990-1999, the American Library Association (ALA) stated that it was the tenth most sought after book to be banned; the same was said for the years 2005 and 2009. It was found that the people who challenged the book were only aware of Holden's character; they did not actually know anything about the plot, and therefore did not understand the point of the story. This book proved to be very controversial, and it greatly impacted the modern societal views on morals.

Personal Responses

There has been much controversy surrounding J.D Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.
  • On Wiki Answers, the question is “What does the Catcher in the Rye teach teenagers?” and there were several different responses. A few talk about how it makes us realize that we aren't the first teenager to experience angst and how we can relate to Holden throughout the book. Another says how new experiences come along all the time and we just have to get used to them. One says that it teaches us that life isn't always as simple as we think it is. Another even said how it is unfair and disillusioning.
  • One person thinks that Holden isn't anything special at all and thinks he is nothing but a spoiled brat. A melodramatic book that the author makes Holden seem very whiny.
  • Another person suggests that Holden is the way he is because his brother died of leukemia and greatly affected his life.
  • Other people mention how they think that you have to be very sensitive and artistic to be able to enjoy the book to the full extent.
  • One got into the book and read only 35 pages before he had to put it away because he couldn't handle Holden's negativity


Overall Impacts On Society

The book influenced society from the late 1940's – 1950's mainstream conservative values because the book challenged them and broke many conventions. The book has a protagonist who is young and thinks and speaks like a typical teenager. This shocked those who had never read this language before. People were not used to reading books like this were especially impacted.

Catcher in the Rye still has an impact today, and it always will as long as there are young people who feel that they don't have a place in society. Many people relate to Holden Caulfield because he points out a lot of the negative aspects of society and his desire to protect the ones that are helpless and innocent (the children) from society's flaws. He has the same voice as anyone who has been frustrated by their helpless role in the world, which includes those who are about to enter adulthood and are terrified to death about entering the real world.

Interesting Facts

  • There were over 700 hundred profanities used, and over 100 obscene uses of the word God.
  • There are roughly 250,000 copies of the book sold every year, bringing the total sales close to 65 million.