Friday, June 25, 2010

Books 101: The Catcher in the Rye

Among all of the books assigned to read in my English class this past school year, one stood out to me more than the others. One that I actually wanted to read, rather than dreaded the very existence of (coughPride&Prejudicecough): J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye.

The first thing that you should know is that The Catcher in the Rye is kind of a depressing book. It tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a cynical sixteen-year-old that swears constantly, lies extravagantly, and rants for pages criticizing what he hates about all the "phonies" of society. Holden is dealing with a lot of emotional stress involving a dead brother and a girl named Jane. On top of this, he's just been kicked out of his boarding school for "not applying himself" and failing all of his classes except for English. This isn't the first school he's been expelled from; this is just one in an entire line of failures that Holden has encountered. He knows that his parents will be receiving a letter about his expulsion soon, and impulsively decides to leave school in the middle of the night to spend his last few days before the inevitable confrontation in New York City. Throughout his time in the city, Holden makes a long string of desperate attempts to reach out and connect with somebody--anybody, from old acquaintances to cab drivers to prostitutes--who all let him down. One particular part of the book that I find to be so heartbreaking is when in the middle of the night Holden stumbles into a phone booth, but then realizes that he has no one to call. Out of everyone in his entire life, he has absolutely no one to reach out to.

There's of course a lot more that I could say about the book itself, but I don't want to give anything more away. You'll just have to read it for yourself!

One thing that I liked about this book is that it's relatively easy to read. What I mean is that it's not one of those classics with such complex language that it takes ten minutes just to decipher what the heck is trying to be said in a paragraph, which is something that personally makes me turn away from some classics. It's written in the language of the street, but touches on so many important issues with deep meaning that certainly require some reading between the lines to fully be aware of.

From what I remember, my fellow students seemed to be sort of divided on their opinions of the book. There were those that found that they could identify with Holden's adolescent angst, as well as those that felt like he was just another whiny teenager. And yes, Holden is not exactly the most likable of characters, but I don't think that really matters. The purpose of the book isn't to make you like Holden, but to give you a glimpse inside the mind of a very miserable kid. He is all that he is accused of being: whiny, annoying, self-absorbed, ungrateful, just like a lot of teenagers. Especially those that have trouble fitting in, or have mental issues, or just can't find a way to be happy. I think most people can admit to feeling like that at one point in their lives, and can see something of themselves in Holden.

Whether you find that you love Holden or hate him, I would highly recommend The Catcher in the Rye. It's just one of those books that I feel like you definitely need to read at some point in your life.

Written by Natalie


  1. its so funny, I loved Holden and my best friend hated him. However, it is a classic and well, parts are a little creepy. But yeah, its on my list although, The Outsiders is above it then 100 Years of Solitude comes next. It ranks 3rd in my altime fav. list..Favorite character though..out of my list is Walk Across Egypt's Wesley. I love Edgerton's Memories of Junior too.

  2. I found it one of those books I couldn't put down. I'm not sure why. Then later I got a bit agrivated at him. Kept thinking, he was a little on the impossible.

  3. Great review, Natalie! I've always heard this title here and there but never knew what it was about. Thanks. (:

  4. This is my friends favorite book. It wasn't required reading back in school in Australia, but I have always wanted to read it.

  5. i highly agree that catcher in the rye is one of those book you have to read in your life. it took me a long time to get through it. i think it was because of the days that seemed to go on for months in this book. if that makes any sense. i'm glad i read it, but i don't think i would want to read it again.

  6. I swear this is one of the best books that I have ever read.