Monday, January 13, 2014

Review: The Catcher in the Rye

Title:  The Catcher in the Rye
Series:  None
Author:  J.D. Salinger
Published:  January 30, 2001 by Back Bay Books (originally published in 1951)
Source:  Bought
Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,
"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them."

His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.
My Review:  I originally picked this book up because I was assigned to read it in my English class.  Normally, I totally resent and dislike the books I'm forced to read, especially if they are thrust into my hands by a teacher.  However, this one was different. I was completely blown away by this novel.  

Holden Caulfield, our main character, was someone who I connected with and felt for immediately.  He's just been expelled from prep school - again - and with only a few days left until break and when he has to leave permanently, he decides to travel to New York and spend the time doing what he wants before it's time to go back home.  This story focuses on those days of freedom and the challenges Holden is met with.  

Though I have never personally been in the situations Holden is put in, I know many people who have had to deal with the thoughts and feelings he experiences throughout the book.  Seeing him feel so horribly about the world and about other people as well as himself, I couldn't help but just want to wrap him up in a hug.  My heart ached for him and I desperately wanted to see his problems fixed though it was not that simple.  He experiences and has to fight through a lot of different things in these few days and it was interesting to see how he took each of them.  His opinions and moods changed so quickly in situations like these.  He went from happy and excited to grudging and angry at the flip of the hat and saw everyone as "phonies".  I did think it was interesting how he called nearly every single person he met phony while he wasn't exactly truthful himself.  His unreliable narration throughout the novel highlighted the irony of that fact.  He wasn't truthful with the people he encountered and he wasn't truthful with himself.  

I really liked the harder questions and situations expressed in this novel and seeing a boy so young deal with them was difficult but very interesting.  His aversion to change was something I think all teenagers have had to deal with at one time or another and, while the way he handled it was far from ideal, it was an extremely relatable fear and anxiety and also very understandable considering his past with the death of his brother, Allie.  Holden was so against the idea of adulthood and growing up and clung so desperately to childhood and the innocence that children possess that he had trouble dealing with the adult issues he was faced with.  Every adult he meets is, in his eyes, some terrible being while every child is the source of all good and happiness.  

The Catcher in the Rye is a classic and is for a reason.  The main character, Holden Caulfield, is equally relatable and heartbreaking.  His story was one that I found myself drawn to and completely immersed in.  His feelings and thoughts are things that have touched my heart and am sure will touch many more people who read this book in the future.  

Five Cards

1 comment:

  1. This is one of those books where it makes a big difference what age you are when you read it. I read it when I was a teen and loved it. Most people who read it when they're older have forgotten what it felt like at that age and don't understand the fuss.

    Moody Writing


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