The Catcher in the Rye
by J.D. Salinger
Summary: 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.
I never read this book in high school. I wish I did. I am glad I finally got around to reading it. I absolutely loved this book.
I loved Holden Caulfield. He was an entertaining narrator, both extremely immature, but also wise beyond his years. I think that’s true of a lot of teenagers. The few teens I am friends with usually surprise me with some of the profound things that come out of their mouths, while being immature at the same time. Holden is a true reflection of this phenomenon.
In some ways, this book reminds me of The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath in the sense that we watch a young person slowly unravel and become physically sick trying to make sense of and struggling with societal norms. In other ways, this book reminds me of the South Park episodes where Stan turns 10 and realizes everything is shit. His doctor tells him that he’s a cynical asshole. (It was a great episode, by the way).
Holden is cynical and he thinks everything is phony (which reminds me of the phony guy from Family Guy.)
Anyway, before I keep getting off track, I think this book is amazing and relevant to society. Holden may not be the most likeable character, but I think the way he sees the world is not unique. I cannot count all the times I’ve felt the way Holden feels. I’ve met people for the first time and thought to myself that he or she doesn’t seem like a real person to me. Like their whole personality is fake, like they are trying too hard to be something. If I didn’t have someone to connect with (like Holden connects with his sister), I’d probably go crazy, too. The world can sometimes be so overwhelming, so full of aggravation and shit and phonies that overthinking can drive just about anyone insane.
I am glad this book is still being read in high school, though I think it’s much better to read when you are a little older, too. I suppose that’s probably the same with just about every classic, though.
Wonderful read and I’m so glad I finally got around to this one.