The Catcher in the Rye in popular culture

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger has had a lasting influence[1][2] as it remains both a bestseller[3] and a frequently challenged book.[3][4] Numerous works in popular culture have referenced the novel.[5][6] Factors contributing to the novel's mystique and impact include its portrayal of protagonist Holden Caulfield;[1] its tone of sincerity;[1] its themes of familial neglect,[7] tension between teens and society,[3][7] and rebellion;[7] its previous banned status;[8] and Salinger's reclusiveness.[1]

The Catcher in the Rye has inspired "rewrites" which have been said to form their own genre.[9] On the other hand, there are examples of similarities between the novel and other works that were not intended by their authors,[7][10][11] which suggests that the novel is "present, at least spiritually, in ... any story line that involves quirky young people struggling to find their places in a society prone to reward conformity and condemn individuality."[3]

While the novel is linked to several murders and murder attempts, it has been claimed that the novel's overall effect on society is "far more positive than negative."[3]

The novel also helped popularize the slang verb "screw up".[12]

From the late 2000s, there has been a discussion of depression as exhibited in Holden Caulfield.[13]


The best-known event associated with The Catcher in the Rye is arguably Mark David Chapman's murder of John Lennon.[14] Chapman identified with the novel's narrator to the extent that he wanted to change his name to Holden Caulfield. On the night he shot Lennon, Chapman was found with a copy of the book in which he had written "This is my statement" and signed Holden's name.[15] Later, he read a passage from the novel to address the court during his sentencing.[16] Daniel Stashower speculated that Chapman had wanted Lennon's innocence to be preserved by death, inspired by Holden's wish to preserve children's innocence despite Holden's later realization that children should be left alone.[16]

After John Hinckley Jr.'s assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in 1981, police found The Catcher in the Rye in his hotel room.[17] Hinckley later admitted to being an admirer of Chapman and studying his attempt on John Lennon. Hinckley's possession of the novel was later dismissed as an influence, as a half dozen various other types of books were also discovered in his possession.

Robert John Bardo, who murdered Rebecca Schaeffer, was carrying the book when he visited Schaeffer's apartment in Hollywood on July 18, 1989 and murdered her.[18]


Although Salinger had refused a film adaptation, many Hollywood films have based characters on Holden Caulfield.[7][19] Holden has been identified as "one of the most reproduced characters on film." Furthermore, many such films reference each other.[20]

Anthony Caputi, a specialist in dramatic literature at Cornell University, claims that the novel inspires both "variations" and "imitations", comparing it with several coming-of-age films.[7]

  • In The Collector (1965), which is based on the John Fowles novel, Clegg cannot understand why Miranda likes The Catcher in the Rye.[21]
  • In the 1990 play and 1993 film Six Degrees of Separation, the impostor Paul gives an analysis on the novel in a monologue.[22][23][24] According to him, the novel, a "manifesto of hate" against phonies, would have been the excuse[25] or defense[26] for Chapman and Hinckley's shootings.
  • In Conspiracy Theory (1997), Mel Gibson's character is programmed to buy the novel whenever he sees it, though he never actually reads it.[15]
  • Chasing Holden (2001) is named after Holden Caulfield.[27] The protagonist Neil relates his life to Holden's, skips class to go to New York City, goes on a road trip to New Hampshire to find Salinger, and contemplates killing Salinger.[28]
  • Screenwriter Mike White regards the novel as "part of a literary trend that goes back to Goethe's The Sorrows of Werther (1774) ... I don't think Salinger discovered it. He just did the quintessential American version."[7] He thought the influence of the novel may rise in Hollywood,[7] and two of his 2002 films reflect this. In Orange County, protagonist Shaun searches for the professor who wrote the book that changed his life.[7]
  • In The Good Girl, protagonist Thomas Worther calls himself Holden and is seen reading the novel.[7][19]
  • Igby Goes Down (2002), originally intended to be a novel, has been interpreted as being inspired by The Catcher in the Rye,[19][20][29][30] but director and screenwriter Burr Steers said it is not a direct influence and the story is more of an autobiography.[7] On the influence of the book, Steers "liken[s] it to being a musician and being influenced by the music ingrained in you, like the Beatles."[7]
  • The Catcher in the Rye deeply influenced the 2017 biographical drama film Rebel in the Rye, which is about Salinger. It is a visual about his life, before and after World War II, and gives more about the author's life than the readers of The Catcher in the Rye learned from the novel.[31]
  • In Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of Stephen King's The Shining, the protagonists, Wendy and her son Danny, are introduced sitting at a kitchenette, with Wendy smoking and reading The Catcher in the Rye as they eat white-bread sandwiches and Danny watches TV.[32]
  • In the 2019 anime film Weathering with You the protagonist Hodaka Morishima reads The Catcher in the Rye and has themes about it.[33]


  • The main plot for the Japanese anime television series Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (2002) hinges on elements from The Catcher in the Rye from which a character uses a digital logo representing Holden Caulfield, and the quote "I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes."[34] These themes and some additional quotes are also expressed in Stand Alone Complex 2nd GIG (2004), although the characters and plot have changed.
  • South Park episode "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs" (2010) makes particular reference to The Catcher in the Rye and shows that its once-controversial use of vocabulary has no impact among young readers nowadays, and pokes fun at literary critics reading deeper meaning into books. It also references its connection towards the series of high-profile assassination attempts in the 1980s, with character Butters Stotch expressing a desire to kill John Lennon after reading the book until his father tells him that Lennon was already killed.[35]
  • In an episode of Family Guy, supporting character Glenn Quagmire launches into a tirade regarding reasons he doesn't like main character, Brian Griffin. One such reason is that he believes that Brian is the sort to lecture a woman with a primitive interpretation of The Catcher in the Rye and how Holden Caulfield is "some profound intellectual", while Quagmire actually perceives Caulfield as a "spoilt brat". Quagmire then goes on to compare Brian to Caulfield, believing that the reason Brian tries to paint Caulfield in a positive light is because Caulfield is quite similar to Brian himself.
  • In 2017 the Criminal Minds episode "False Flag" (S13: E9) was based around Catcher in the Rye, a book important to members of the Truther’s community in Roswell, New Mexico.


The Catcher in the Rye has had significant cultural influence, and works inspired by the novel have been said to form their own genre. Sarah Graham assessed works influenced by The Catcher in the Rye to include the novels Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis, The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Ordinary People by Judith Guest, and the film Igby Goes Down by Burr Steers.[36]

  • John Fowles's 1963 novel The Collector uses The Catcher in the Rye as "one of the most brilliant examples of adolescence" in popular culture, possibly under a moral light.[37] In it, Miranda encourages her kidnapper Clegg to read Catcher, thinking he might relate to Holden's alienation.[15] However, Clegg finds Holden's actions unrealistic given Holden's wealth and status, and "[doesn't] see much point in it." In the film adaptation of The Collector, this conversation and Clegg's attitude toward the novel and popular culture is subdued.[38] The novel has itself been linked to several serial killers.[15]
  • Alberto Fuguet's first novel Mala onda (Bad Vibes, 1991), which is set in Santiago, Chile three months before the John Lennon assassination, references The Catcher in the Rye extensively.[39] Like Holden, Matías Vicuña (the 17-year-old narrator and protagonist of the novel) is a cynical, alienated, upper-class teenager who feels fed-up with the blandness of his friends and family. After reading Salinger's book, Matías feels a special connection with Holden. He attempts to replicate Holden's self-inflicted isolation by fleeing home and locking himself up in a hotel room, and he even purchases a red hunting hat to complete the persona.[40]
  • Lawrence Block wrote a novel called Burglar in the Rye (1999) in his series on burglar Bernie Rhodenbarr. The plot focuses on an auction of a reclusive writer's letters,[41] and Bernie works to track down the character based on J. D. Salinger.
  • In Galt Niederhoffer's novel A Taxonomy of Barnacles (2005), Bridget and Billy think about Holden's question as to the whereabouts of ducks during winter.[42]
  • John David California wrote 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye (2009), an unauthorized sequel in which seventy-six-year-old Holden escapes a retirement home for a journey in New York.[43]
  • In Stephen King's novel Finders Keepers, a reclusive author is murdered by an obsessed fan who steals a trunkful of unpublished writings, reminiscent of the (unfounded) belief that Salinger had never stopped writing.

Comic strips and magazines[edit]


  • The Ataris' song "If You Really Want to Hear About It" from their album End is Forever takes its title from the novel's opening sentence. The final lines paraphrase those of the book with "Don't ever tell anyone anything or else you'll wind up missing everybody." Several other specific references are made within the lyrics.[46]
  • Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire" mentions the novel as a historic item of note during his lifetime.[47]
  • Green Day's "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" from their album Kerplunk (1991) is named after and is about the novel's main character, Holden Caulfield. Frontman Billie Joe Armstrong recalled being forced to read the novel in high school and despising it. He later reread it as an adult, because it was seen as "punk rock".[48]
  • Screeching Weasel's "I Wrote Holden Caulfield" from their album How to Make Enemies and Irritate People is named after the novel's main character, Holden Caulfield and written in response to Green Day's "Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?".
  • Pencey Prep was a band from New Jersey formed by Frank Iero. The name of the band is a reference to the school Holden Caulfield goes to in the book, Pencey Prep.[49]
  • SLATE.’s song “catcher in the rye.” from his 2021 2-track single “STATIC chiffon.” deals with similar themes of loneliness and modern social isolation. It also takes its own spin on Holden’s dream of being the catcher in the rye by saving kids from jumping off the cliff to their death.
  • Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy album contains a song titled "Catcher In The Rye".
  • The original demo version of "Dead Mom" from Beetlejuice (musical) includes the line, "This carousel of painted ponies spins around filled up with phonies," a reference to the carousel in the penultimate chapter and Holden's disdain for phonies. [50]
  • In the music video for the 2018-song Play It Cool by Girli a guy can be seen reading the novel.

Video games[edit]

  • Life Is Strange – The main protagonist of the game Max Caulfield is named after Holden Caulfield.[51] She also owns a poster resembling the original cover of The Catcher in the Rye.[52]


  1. ^ a b c d Jonathan Yardley (2004-10-19). "J.D. Salinger's Holden Caulfield, Aging Gracelessly". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-05-21. "The Catcher in the Rye" is a maladroit, mawkish novel, but there can be no question about its popularity or influence.
  2. ^ Barry Roth (1964-01-05). "Brooklyn College". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-05-21. ...the "do you think you'll ever feel about me the way you used to feel about 'Catcher in the Rye'?" influence of the theater and movies often stimulates collegians to read these and other writers.
  3. ^ a b c d e Jeff Guinn (2001-08-10). "'Catcher in the Rye' still influences 50 years later" (fee required). Erie Times-News. Retrieved 2007-12-18. Alternate URL.
  4. ^ "100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000". American Library Association. Archived from the original on 2007-01-18. Retrieved 2007-01-21.
  5. ^ "'Rye' misfit's rugged spirit inspires works" (fee required). The Sacramento Bee. 2001-06-07. Retrieved 2007-05-21. "The Catcher in the Rye" has influenced the work of many writers, filmmakers and musicians. Here's a look at some of the more notable entries...
  6. ^ "Sixties to Howl Once Again in College Literature Course" (fee required). Telegram & Gazette. 2001-04-08. Retrieved 2007-05-21. Mr. Patterson explained his inclusion of a 1952 novel in his "Literature of the 1960s" course this way: "I kept seeing references to Holden Caulfield...
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Nancy Mills (2002-08-25). "Holden Caulfield's many pretenders". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-05-21. 'Most young male characters in the movies are based on the character of Holden Caulfield,' says Raymond Haberski... 'It's been a very steady influence in the last 30 years.'
  8. ^ "Banned Books Offer Classic Opportunities" (fee required). Sarasota Herald-Tribune. 1996-10-23. Retrieved 2007-05-21. [...] one of the controversial books that has been censored in the past is J.D. Salinger's ``The Catcher in the Rye.' [...] all through his life he'd hear references to Holden Caulfield and his crazy red hunting hat, and if he wanted to understand those references, [...]
  9. ^ Louis Menand (2001-09-27). "Holden at fifty". The New Yorker.
  10. ^ Joy Karugu (2005-11-09). "Novelist Sittenfeld chronicles 'Prep' life". The Daily Princetonian. Archived from the original on 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2007-12-19. That's an easy comparison people often make — because of its setting and general topic.
  11. ^ Dale Peck (2007-09-23). "'The Outsiders': 40 Years Later". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-19.'s likely that Hinton's echo of the testimonial frame Salinger used in "The Catcher in the Rye" ("If you really want to hear about it") wasn't consciously intended...
  12. ^ William Safire (1990-04-08). "Screwing Up". The New York Times. p. 2. Retrieved 2007-12-20. Screw up, in this sense, is first found in a December 1942 issue of Yank, and was further popularized in the 1951 Catcher in the Rye, the famed novel by J. D. Salinger: Boy, it really screws up my sex life something awful.
  13. ^ Dedria Bryfonski, ed. (2009). "Depression in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye". Greenhaven Press.
  14. ^ Leslie Miller; Susan Wlosczyczna; Joh Chetwynd; Gary Levin; Claudia Puig; Mike Snider; Kevin V. Johnson (1999-04-22). "Kids, online and off, feast on violence". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-05-21. Lindsay Doran, president of United Artists, says, "[...] You can't not like Catcher in the Rye because someone read it and killed John Lennon."
  15. ^ a b c d Aidan Doyle (2003-12-15). "When books kill". p. 2. Archived from the original on 2007-11-05. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
  16. ^ a b Whitfield, 571–572.
  17. ^ Whitfield, 572.
  18. ^ Linton Weeks (2000-09-10). "Telling on Dad". Amarillo Globe-News. Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2009-01-13.
  19. ^ a b c Robert Wilonsky (2002-09-19). "Burr, Not Chilly". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2007-12-19. Salinger would never allow such a thing, and it's a moot point, to boot. Catcher has been made and remade for decades under various noms de crap...
  20. ^ a b Katrina Onstad (2008-02-22). "Beholden to Holden". CBC News.
  21. ^ Kirsten Markson (2002-11-03). "The Collector". PopMatters. Retrieved 2007-12-19.
  22. ^ Rita Kempley (1993-12-22). "Six Degrees of Separation". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-12-19. Guare ... expounds upon ... the violent subtext of The Catcher in the Rye...
  23. ^ William A. Henry III (1990-06-25). "Six Degrees of Separation". Time. Archived from the original on December 6, 2008. Retrieved 2007-12-19. When the intruder starts to analyze The Catcher in the Rye in scholarly jargon, the hosts are spellbound by his vocabulary and miss the fact that his rap becomes comic nonsense.
  24. ^ Lauren Phillips (2002-04-01). "Color without structure". The Tufts Daily. Archived from the original on 2009-01-10. Retrieved 2007-12-19. ...Paul's frequent references to Holden Caufield's struggles in Catcher in the Rye.
  25. ^ Frank Rich (1990-07-01). "Stage View; A Guidebook to the Soul Of a City in Confusion". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-19. Paul's view, that J. D. Salinger's 'touching, beautiful, sensitive story' has been turned into 'a manifesto of hate' by assassins like Mark David Chapman and John Hinckley who use Holden Caulfield's social estrangement as an excuse to commit murder.
  26. ^ Whitfield, 573.
  27. ^ Michael Speier (2001-03-28). "'Holden' catches cast". Variety. Retrieved 2007-05-21. Title is a reference to The Catcher in the Rye protag Holden Caulfield, around whom Kanan's script is based.
  28. ^ Christopher Null (2002). "Chasing Holden Movie Review". Archived from the original on 2007-11-04. Retrieved 2007-05-21.
  29. ^ J.J. Duncan (2002-11-04). "Film Review: Stellar performers, quirky characters make Salinger rip-off worth seeing". Kansas State Collegian. Retrieved 2007-12-19. Screenwriting 101: Ripping off Salinger is a quick way of writing a decent movie about teen-age disillusionment.[dead link]
  30. ^ Terry Lawson (2002-11-14). "Reviews and ratings of feature films". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2007-12-19. Catcher in the Rye gone awry, this angst-filled dark comedy finds a prep-school dropout set adrift in New York City.
  31. ^ Sims, David. "'Rebel in the Rye' Is Phony Through and Through". The Atlantic. Retrieved May 22, 2018.
  32. ^ Morgan, Kim (2010-04-01). "Six Stories: Salinger Inspired Cinema". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 2020-01-11.
  33. ^ "Weathering with You".
  34. ^ Charles Solomon (2011-06-22). "'Ghost in the Shell': Three TV variations on a cyberpunk theme". Los Angeles Times.
  35. ^ Ramsey Isler (2010-03-25). "South Park: "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs" Review". IGN.
  36. ^ Rohrer, Finlo (June 5, 2009). "Why does Salinger's Catcher in the Rye still resonate?". BBC News Magazine. Retrieved February 12, 2012.
  37. ^ Whitfield, 570.
  38. ^ Whitfield, 571.
  39. ^ Santini, Benoît (2013). Chile en el siglo XXI: ¿Nuevos recorridos artísticos, nuevos caminos históricos?. Mago Editores.
  40. ^ Fuguet, Alberto (1997). Bad Vibes. St. Martin's Press.
  41. ^ Harry Levins; Susan C. Hegger; Judith Evans (1999-07-04). "Thrillers" (fee required). St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved 2007-05-21. Burglar in the Rye; referring to whiskey, in a wry twist that centers on the planned auction of letters from a reclusive writer who authored a seminal...
  42. ^ Ashley Simpson Shires (2005-12-30). "'Barnacles' gets tangled". Rocky Mountain News. Archived from the original on 2007-02-06. Retrieved 2007-05-21. Niederhoffer nods to Salinger in a reference to The Catcher in the Rye: Bridget and Billy pause on 72nd Street, near the Boat Pond, 'pondering Holden's question: where on earth did the ducks go during the winter months?'
  43. ^ Alison Flood (2009-05-14). "Catcher in the Rye sequel published – but not by Salinger". The Guardian.
  44. ^ Pat Hathcock (2003-05-05). "New comic strip debuts in today's Advocate". Victoria Advocate. Retrieved 2008-01-04.
  45. ^ Young, Paul (27 July 2016). Frank Miller's Daredevil and the Ends of Heroism. ISBN 9780813573038.
  46. ^ Jung La (2001-04-12). "Ataris: End is Forever". The Stanford Daily. Retrieved 2007-06-08. The pop culture saturation of the Ataris' lyrics could get annoying if you're not into that sort of thing, but, to me, it's what makes this album stand out. "If You Really Want To Hear About It" references J. D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye"...[dead link]
  47. ^ Chris Heim (1990-02-09). "Billy Joel and the 'We Didn't Start the Fire' quiz" (fee required). Chicago Tribune.
  48. ^ "Green Day – Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?" – via
  49. ^ Jamieson, Brii. "Frank Iero: A Timeline Of All Of His Bands", Rock Sound, January 16, 2019. Accessed March 3, 2021. "Frank's first band, Pencey Prep was an integral part of the burgeoning punk and hardcore scene in their home state of New Jersey back in the very very early 2000s. Frank was the frontman and guitarist for Pencey Prep, who took their name from The Catcher In The Rye (it was the school that the main character was expelled from)."
  50. ^ Eddie Perfect. Dead Mom (2014 Original Pitch Demo) (Song). Retrieved May 31, 2022.
  51. ^ "Life is Strange Director Talks About the Theme of "Identity" and Visual Novels - Siliconera". Archived from the original on 10 February 2015. Retrieved 12 January 2022.
  52. ^ "Life is Strange's Literary References Give Deeper Meaning to its Journey".