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Youth's interest in Salinger protagonist endures

Thursday, January 28, 2010 | 6:50 p.m. CST; updated 8:50 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 28, 2010

COLUMBIA —"The Catcher in the Rye" is a staple of high school English, and, for many, seeing the world through Holden Caulfield's eyes is a rite of passage.

The novel's author, J.D. Salinger, who died Wednesday at 91, will be remembered for the book — but not at any funeral services — because Salinger, a noted recluse, had requested that there be none.

"Based on what I know about Salinger, that's pretty typical," English teacher MacKenzie Everett-Kennedy said. "He was such a recluse."

Everett-Kennedy teaches the novel to seniors at Hickman High School shortly before their graduation.

"They can relate to a teenager who feels the need to please everyone while still trying to find himself," Everett-Kennedy said. "I think kids like that it is written in a teenager's voice — not your typical narrator's."

She has her students research Salinger, so they can get a sense of the parallels between his books and life.

"They find him to be so bizarre," Everett-Kennedy said. "It intrigues them to read."

"The Catcher in the Rye" is not on the curriculum at Centralia High School, where American literature teacher Danielle Bennett teaches. However, it's on Bennett's bookshelf at home and is included on an outside reading list for her students.

Holden Caulfield "felt kind of isolated from other people, and I think that's intriguing to people," Bennett said. "I think students can connect with Holden, and when you can connect with characters, it makes the literature come to life."

Missourian reporters April Choi and Alix Wiggins contributed to this article.


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