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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

"The Catcher in the Rye"

by J.D. Salinger, YR, 1951, c1945, 214p, rating=3.5
Source: library
Content:  profanity, portrayal of sexuality

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. (Goodreads)

Wow, can Holden ramble on!  He sure had a lot of things on his mind that he wanted to air out and so he narrated it to us, the readers.  Lovely.  One long monologue.  BUT, reading his thought process was the hook.  You got into his head.  You feel what he feels.  You see what he sees.  His language rings true.  Yes, his thoughts were not necessarily sound but for that 2-3 days, you walked in his shoes and that's great writing! 

One can pick this book apart and find many interpretations.  I saw a mixed up teenager testing out his environment.  He thinks he can do good in the world.  Inspired from a book that moved him, he turned it into a metaphorical noble quest, to be the "catcher in the rye" save children from losing their innocence.  Of course, he was about to find out from his little sister that he misunderstood the book and later his former English teacher pointed out something written by a psychoanalyst that, "The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one." (pg 188).  Food for thought.

Most of Holden's story was full of criticisms.  Then finally, a heartwarming moment between Holden and his sister Phoebe that took Holden aback.  An ending marking hope.  Nice.

Rating: comments


  1. One of my absolute favorites. Glad you enjoyed it.

  2. This book is for people who think nobody understands them and that they are all alone in this world.


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