Document Type


Date of Award



J. D. (Jerome David) Salinger, Buddhism, Hinduism, Influence, In literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


English, General Literature, and Rhetoric

First Advisor

Sheldon N. Grebstein

Second Advisor

Zack R. Bowen

Third Advisor

John E. Vernon


J. D. Salinger is a highly controversial writer, vehemently denounced by one segment of his American readers while his admirers, mostly young, have raised him to the level of a guru. A major area of controversy about Salinger's fiction is his use of Hindu-Buddhist philosophic and mystical concepts. His fiction often creates the impression that the author is indulging in cultural disloyalty: rejecting Western and Judeo-Christian values while exalting Eastern values. If this is so, Luce’s remark to Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye can be regarded as Salinger's basic conviction: “I simply happen to find Eastern philosophy more satisfactory than Western.” But this blunt remark by one of his characters does not settle the issue. And a study of his fiction reveals that not all of his works borrow overtly from Hinduism and Buddhism. For example, The Catcher in the Rye and many of his short stories seem to have virtually no Eastern borrowings, at least on the surface level of the narrative. On the other hand, in “Teddy” and in the Glass family stories—“Hapworth 16, 1924,” “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” “Franny,” “Zooey,” “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters,” and “Seymour: An Introduction”—Salinger makes innumerable references to Hindu-Buddhist doctrines (a comprehensive list of Salinger's explicit Oriental borrowings is provided in Appendix A). Therefore, this study will be mainly concerned with the function of the Eastern motifs, especially as these contribute to Salinger’s pervasive satire and irony, in the cycle of the Glass family stories.

Because Salinger's satiric technique is extremely complex, the critics have been much provoked. Some have acclaimed him a great satirist and master of modern fiction. Others have labelled his method shoddy. He has been condemned by yet other critics primarily for his use of Eastern mysticism. The charges vary from outright moral deception to glaring superficiality and escapist philosophizing. However, no critical faction has provided an adequate explanation of the crucial function of Eastern motifs in Salinger’s fiction. Without a proper understanding of the Eastern influences, any critical or scholarly appraisal of Salinger will be distorted and incomplete. The basic problem seems to be that critics of Salinger’s works generally lack even a working knowledge of Eastern philosophy, and thus fail to see the ironic implications of his adroit handling of Eastern thought. As a consequence, there has been a tendency to overlook Salinger’s esoteric religious mysticism and to view his thematic interest within a framework of conventional Western thought. Hence Salinger’s fiction warrants a thorough examination and explication in the light of Oriental thought. Peripheral and exploratory studies have been done in this area by a handful of critics. Further detailed study is necessary in order to fully unravel the significance of the Eastern borrowings, and my dissertation will focus on this issue.