Writings of J.D. Salinger

Word Count: 1797

Many critics consider J.D. Salinger a very controversial writer, for
the subject matters that he writes.. J.D. Salingerís works were
generally written during two time periods. The first time period was
during World War II, and the second time period was during the
1960ís. Critics feel that the works during the 1960 time period were
very inappropriate, because of the problems for which he wrote. The
main characters were generally misfits of society. In most of his
works, he has the protagonist of the story go on a quest for
happiness. Salinger does not conform to the material happiness; the
characters undergo a spiritual happiness. The characters generally
start out as in bad conditions, through the end of his works they
undergone changes that change them for the better. The works of
J.D. Salinger show the quest for happiness through religion,
loneliness, and symbolism. Salingerís works often use religion in
order to portray comfort. In Salingerís Nine Stories Franny Glass
keeps reciting the "Jesus Prayer" to cope with the suicide of her
brother Seymour (Bloom in Bryfonski and Senick 69). Salinger is able
to use this prayer as a means of comfort for Franny. The prayer
stands for the last hope for Franny in this situation. Franny would
be lost if their was no prayer. (Bryfonski and Senick 71). Salinger
shows us comfort in Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caufield, the
protagonist, is very much in despair for losing his girlfriend, so
Caufield reads a passage in the Bible. This helps Holden change his
outlook on life (Salzberg 75). Holden was all alone at this point and
had no one to turn back on, until he found the Bible (Salzberg 76). In
both stories the characters had found themselves in bad situations.
The characters in these works have obstacles which they must
overcome in order to achieve happiness (Salzman 34). Happiness is
the ! very substance which all of these characters are striving for in
Salingerís works. Salinger uses religion in his works to comfort them
so that they can proceed on their quest to achieve happiness.
Salinger uses religion as a means for liberation. Salinger uses much
of the Zen philosophy, as in the case of Nine Stories, to achieve this
liberation (Madsen 93). In Nine Stories one of the characters,
Seymour Glass, is portrayed as Buddha in the sense that he wants
to be liberated as Buddha was in his life (Madsen 93). Seymour
Glass in Nine Stories has a certain philosophy about life, it is similar
to the Eightfold Path used by Buddha when achieving nirvana
(French in Matuz 212). Seymour Glass is on a quest to become free
from all of the suffering in his life as Buddha was from his life
(French in Matuz 213). Seymour follows the Eightfold path to
become liberated from suffering (Madsen 96). Seymour achieves
"nirvana" by living a good life and end anything that causes
suffering. Seymour is able to attain nirvana by committing suicide
(Lundquist in Matuz 211). Salinger shows us that when Seymour
committed suicide he let go of all of the suffering that he
encountered, ! thus attaining the happiness he longed for (French,
Salinger Revisited 132). Salinger shows liberation as an end to all
suffering, thus creating happiness for the character. (French,
Salinger Revisited 133). The final function of religion as a means to
attain happiness was to gain peace In "The Young Lion," Salinger
uses religion to gain peace through a fictitious war. In the story
many of the soldiers were dying and the countries were in turmoil
(Lundquist 312). The leaders in the story see a vision on the
battlefield that changes them, and stops the war (Lundquist 315).
Salinger shows how religion can be a force used to create happiness
in a story, by creating peace (Lundquist 313). Salinger is able to use
religion as a means of attaining happiness through peace. The story
seemed very dismal, until religion intervened and stopped the
conflict. Salinger creates happiness for the characters by stopping
the conflict. In "The Stranger" Salinger creates peace through a war
by using more of the Zen philosophy. Salingerís creates a "Pact of
Peace" which stops the conflict between the Germans and Polish
during WWII (Hamilton in Bryfonski and Senick 143) . The "Pact of
Peace" ! was a teaching used by Buddha in the Zen philosophy
(Hamilton in Bryfonski and Senick 143). Salinger uses Zen, in this
case, to stop the conflict between the Polish and Germans(Hamilton
in Bryfonski and Senick 143). In many of Salingerís works the
conflict, becomes a source for much of the unhappiness in the story