A Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
It’s not often that I enjoy reading books assigned in English classes but J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye was an exception. Our narrator is Holden Caulfield, a teenager from New York City who, to be frank, has got problems. Holden begins writing the story in a therapy institute in California and flashes back to the events that occurred in New York City. He starts off at Pencey Prep School and details his journey around New York City after he is expelled. Things go from crumby to worse as Holden’s mental condition begins to deteriorate over the course of several days.
The first thing that I noticed when I started reading was Holden’s particularly irreverent attitude about pretty much everything. Even as things go from bad to worse, his outlook on 1950s society doesn’t change much. He views much of society as being “phony” because he deems it to be insincere and all about surface appearances. Holden’s repulsion with the superficial skin of his society has caused him problems: he’s failed out every boarding school he’s attended, he drinks, he smokes, and now he’s failed out of Pencey Prep and is avoiding his parents until they’ve had time to process this recent turn of events. In the meanwhile he’s got plenty of cash and several days in the city with nothing to do. Throughout this journey of his, Holden encounters many people, most of which are phonies, and he dances with strange women, gets slugged in the stomach, and contemplates calling a girl from his past, although unsuccessfully. He also gets drunk. But you see, Holden’s not a bad kid. Holden does have people that he loves – people whom he sees as authentic, and not phony. Holden often talks to the memory of his dead brother Allie, who Holden describes as being smart and very kind-hearted. Holden also loves his little sister Phoebe, who is also intelligent and makes him happy.
For me, The Catcher in the Rye was definitely an enjoyable read. Holden’s rebellious attitude is not that hard to relate to and still resonates with many readers today. Holden also tells his story with a lot of humor, some of which made me laugh to myself, usually a sign that the book is enjoyable. In the end, Holden’s a teenager struggling to find his place in a society that he doesn’t feel like a part of. But maybe it’s his detachment and rebelliousness that many young readers can identify with, because we don’t always like the way society has shaped the world. Holden is in many ways a hero for readers who feel disillusioned by the world and its shortcomings. If you haven’t read this book yet, you should. Even though the book is controversial (which is not what I’m here to talk about), you might find Holden’s view of society to still be relevant today, although for different reasons. You might find that Holden’s beliefs resonate with you. Or you might read it and decide that Holden is a spoiled brat who whines too much for his own good. You can only decide if you read the book! Regardless, The Catcher in the Rye is certainly a book worth reading, and if you haven’t read it yet, you should either look forward to possibly reading it your junior year or to making a trip to the public library.
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