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The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Author Biography

Learn more about J.D. Salinger's life and the personal experiences that inspired his novel The Catcher in the Rye in Course Hero's video study guide.

J. D. Salinger | Biography


J.D. (Jerome David) Salinger was born on January 1, 1919, in New York City. His family lived in an apartment near Central Park. Salinger attended Valley Forge Military Academy in Wayne, Pennsylvania, where he excelled at fencing but paid little attention to grades. Salinger wrote for the school paper and yearbook and graduated in 1936. His first semester at New York University did not go well, so he traveled to Europe to learn his father's import business.

Salinger worked in Austria just before World War II began; what he saw of Nazi power disturbed him. Returning to the United States in 1940, he attended Columbia University and wrote short stories. One story, "Slight Rebellion Off Madison" (1946), featured an early version of Holden Caulfield. Soon after the war began, in 1942, Salinger was drafted, serving at home and abroad. Salinger participated in key events late in the war: the D-Day invasion, the liberation of Paris, and the invasion of Germany. All the while, he wrote stories and worked on early drafts of The Catcher in the Rye.

After the war, Salinger wrote for a living. On July 16, 1951, The Catcher in the Rye was published to immediate success. Salinger, shy of publicity, spent that time touring Great Britain, out of the press's reach.

The Catcher in the Rye is Salinger's only novel, but he published many short stories. Avoiding the public eye, Salinger became famous as a recluse, but he cared about how his novel fared among young readers.

Married and divorced several times during his long life, Salinger died in New Hampshire on January 27, 2010.

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