The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in Rye is the ultimate novel for disaffected youth, but it’s relevant to all ages. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a seventeen- year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Throughout, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection. Lazy in style, full of slang and swear words, it’s a novel whose interest and appeal comes from its observations rather than its plot intrigues (in conventional terms, there is hardly any plot at all). Salinger’s style creates an effect of conversation, it is as though Holden is speaking to you personally, as though you too have seen through the pretences of the American Dream and are growing up unable to see the point of living in, or contributing to, the society around you. Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood, it deals with society, love, loss, and expectations without ever falling into the clutch of a cliche.
What an interesting book. Very engaging but short – only 200 pages. The book is narrated by Holden Caulfield, who has just been kicked out of school – the fourth one in a row. He talks about experiences he has at school, with the people he shared the dormitory with; his experience in New York, including trying to get served in bars, going to the theatre and getting in cabs; his experience with his family, especially his wise younger sister Phoebe; and his discovery of sex and homosexuality. The book is ambigous in places, adding depth to the story.
Holden is an interesting character. He unpicks life, he is so negative. Everything is “phoney” or wants to make him “puke”. This is an interesting look at the American Dream – he seems to believe it doesn’t exist, that it is a simple idea that makes people act in a false manner.
My favourite character was Phoebe, the sister. She was important to Holden – spoken about regularly as he missed her. When he speaks to her she seems very wise and caring, as well likable and lovely.
I enjoyed this book. It was easy to read, with many issues to think over. Although Holden does not like anything, he still makes an interesting read. This book is well worth reading.