Author: J.D. Salinger
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Year: 1991
Format: Mass Market Paperback
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.
The Catcher in the Rye is a fascinating read. I believe that this book has a character-driven story. So it won’t be suitable to comment on the plot of this book. The Catcher in the Rye follows Holden Caulfield and his coming-of-age journey. At the start of the book we found out that Holden has been expelled from his current school. All because he never tried to be more involved with school and we will learn why throughout the rest of the book.
I would say that Holden Caulfield is a symbol of teen angst. There is just so much anger within him. I could totally see why many people could relate to him though. Holden might appear as someone you would not sympathize to. He is arrogant, he cursed a lot, and he does not care what other people think. Those are just one of many layers of Holden Caulfield. He is a judgmental person. He often judges other people as ‘phonies’ and that he is different. He likes to identify himself as a unique person and that he is better than everyone else, which makes him appear arrogant. We often read him being described wearing his hunting hat. I believe that the unusual hunting hat is a symbol, to represent his uniqueness to people around him.
As we peel another layer of Holden, we will find out that he is a sad and depressed teen. He has a longing for a connection to other people but always ends up alienate them. It shows many times when he keeps on thinking about Jane Gallagher. Jane is Holden’s old friend who seems to be the only person besides his sister, Phoebe, who is able to connect with him. He did try to contact her several times though, but like I said before, he always ends up not contacting her by making excuses. He isolates himself as a form of self-protection.
Other important character in this book is Phoebe, who is Holden’s younger sister. Holden adores his sister so much. We will not meet her until the last part of the book. Holden sees Phoebe as an innocent child but she is more mature for her age. She disagrees with Holden’s view about the world. Her presence in the story makes Holden be the one who is naive. Holden believes that all children are innocent and need to be protected, while all the adults are ‘phonies’. He resists growing up. He is afraid of changes. He does not like changes which are shown while he is visiting Museum of Natural History.
I like being in Holden’s head. He is snarky and full of sarcasm which I find funny. He likes to curse and he hates almost everything. I was planning on put tabs on pages where he curses or says that he hates something. But I realized that my tab supplies might not be sufficient.
Salinger’s writing style is not all beautiful and poetic. But I believe that would just be because he is writing from an angry and depressed teenager’s point of view which is necessary. So he’s done a great job at that. Although I do think that there are too many swearing in this book. It didn’t bother me at all but those curse words feel overused.
All in all, I enjoyed reading this book. Holden makes an interesting character study. He is an epitome of teen angst and self-alienation, which many people can relate to. I recommend this book and I would love to read more of Salinger’s works.
‘The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move.’