The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield, The Sexual Psychopath? College

J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is set against the lavender scare and the sexual psychopath laws of the 1950’s. During this time, the United States at large was horrified by the apparent rise in sex crimes in the country. Holden Caulfield, Salinger's protagonist, was no doubt heavily influenced by these events; in fact, such events would have been almost unavoidable with the amount of media attention they received at the time. Homegrown anxiety about sexual psychopaths was a major factor that contributed to Holden’s mental breakdown, which ultimately led him to be placed in a rehabilitation center.

Beginning in the 1930’s, there were growing concerns among United States citizens about sexual deviants and dangerous perverts infesting New York City. Several tragic murders of young girls were highly publicized in 1937, horrifying parents across the nation. Concerns about public safety continued to grow until over a decade later in 1949, when John Edgar Hoover published his article in The American Magazine titled “How Safe is your Daughter?” According to Hoover and the slew of articles about sex criminals that followed, American young women were not safe at all. In fact, between 1935 and 1965, the New York Times published...

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