For Readers Who Struggled: The Catcher in the Rye Book Review of J.D. Salinger’s classic.
This review is aimed for readers who struggled to understand this novel.
I hope you can see my perspective and that maybe you will give this novel another try so that you can appreciate the genius and insight this book has to offer. You don’t have to love it, but I hope you will grow to respect it.
Many of us have read this classic during high school: WARNING! there will be sufficient SPOILERS.
J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. It has been frequently challenged in court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality.
This book rises above controversy and debate, and that is part of what makes it such an interesting read.
The Catcher in the Rye certainly isn’t for everyone, but I find it a compelling and exciting read.
It has a hearty dose of realism mixed with some humor that is contrasted with moments of depression and emotional pain.
Despite being written in 1951, many teenagers today are still able to relate to the various themes presented throughout the novel. Teenagers can often relate because of the complex themes of rebellion, identity, and independence.
This modern classic falls into a coming-of age-genre and a good one at that.
Personally, I find the main character absolutely intriguing. I find it fascinating to get inside the head of the strange, rebellious Holden Caulfield.
The book begins with Holden directly addressing you, the reader. He begins to retell the events over a three-day period from the previous December.
His story starts at Pencey Prep, a prestigious boarding school filled with, what Holden calls, “phonies.” Although Holden tries to “play it off cool,” the reader can tell, early on, that he his quite lazy and completely clueless about his direction in life.
Holden is on a destructive path carrying his guilt, pain and loss, as it leads him in no direction.
Throughout his escapade in New York, he seeks meaning, help, and guidance, yet avoids these needs with indulgences and distractions – just trying to feel something other than pain.
He seeks out his teacher’s console because he needs to talk to someone who isn’t a phonie – he wants someone that will truly listen and provide guidance. He is in pain and feels hopelessly lost – even if he doesn’t admit this to himself.
There is no scheduled outline designed by the writer. Nothing advancing the plot: no rising action, conflict, or resolution – in the traditional sense. This is a broken teenager’s story of the chaotic last couple of days before he was admitted into the hospital.
The story erupts when all of his repressed emotions finally burst to the surface and crash his whole world down. All his acts of rebellion only are masking the pain of his grief.
The entire book is essentially one long flashback.
He is retelling the events he experienced prior to being admitted to a psychiatric hospital. After reading the last page of this story, think back on what you have read with this new perspective you have just gained.
Imagine you are a patient in the hospital with Holden. This story is the conversation you two are having. He is telling you why he is here – what led up to this point of you sitting next to him.
And just as his personal story is getting more and more difficult to tell, he stops abruptly, shifts the blame to you “not wanting to bore you with his story” in order to defend himself from sharing any more of his personal sorrow.
To me, Salinger’s speech is so important. When you’re depressed and can’t get out of your own way, you can’t think; you get stuck on thoughts.
This is why Holden is constantly repeating and often contradicting himself. He can’t make sense of anything.
He is so guilt stricken from the death of his brother. It is always on his mind. He constantly comes back to it because he hasn’t gotten over it. It bothers him that the world has moved on – that his family has moved on.
He’s stuck in a loop of survivor’s guilt. His life stopped when his brother died and he isn’t willing to move on. Holden has been lost for some time.
What I think readers miss most about this story is that, although Holden is the protagonist of this story, he is not a character you should idolize. In fact, the opposite is true.
Holden’s character is meant to personify the “lost soul.”
We may all be able to identify with a piece of him and if you do you should recognize that you, like Holden, need help – hopefully before you lose your way completely and fall down the rabbit hole.
He personifies the struggle most teens face when they begin to enter the adult world. You need to be able to sort out the “phonies,” call the bullshit, start to tackle your own inner demons, seek help, and find your own way.
To each their own; we all have our own demons.
Maybe it’s my psychology background that makes me want to psychoanalyze Holden, so keep in mind this is my perspective – what I see in Holden. At the very least I hope you can try to see that point of view.
One of the greatest insights this novel has to offer is in the mind of Holden Caulfield – the mind of our mentally wounded.
The Forgotten Fiction Grade: YEA (read it!)
“For Readers Who Struggled: The Catcher in the Rye Book Review” was written by Peter Maisano.
The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children’s voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden’s voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
J.D. Salinger’s classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time’s 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950’s and 60’s it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.