Salinger published his landmark novel The Catcher in the Rye in 1951. It became a defining novel for teen angst.
Before [the book] people went through their teenage years with no sense it was a particular kind of identity. It is the first novel of the modern teenage years, Dr. Sarah Graham, a lecturer from the University of Leicester, told the BBC last year.
Since its publication, the book has sold over 65 million copies. It is on the list of Time's 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.
The Catcher in the Rye features the 17-year-old protagonist Holden Caulfield. It chronicles his return to New York after being expelled from his college preparatory school. Holden struggles with his disconnect with phony society throughout the novel.
He reveals to his little sister that he wants to be the catcher in the rye, a role that allows him to protect children.
He imagines children playing in a field of rye, and whenever children run towards edge of the field toward a cliff, he would catch them. The cliff is a metaphor for the evils of the adult world that he wants to protect children from.
In 1953, Salinger moved to Cornish, New Hampshire, and became increasingly reclusive as his fame grew. He married Claire Douglas in 1955 and had two children, Margaret in 1955 and Matthew in 1960.