This review is brought to you by Central Library Teen Volunteer, Micheal Lee.
The Catcher In The Rye
“Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.”
The novel The Catcher In The Rye, is written by J.D Salinger in 1951. A novel widely read by high-school adolescents, The Catcher In The Rye is about a 16-year-old boy, Holden Caulfield, and his escapade before coming home.
The setting of the novel begins within Pencey, one of the numerous boarding schools Holden flunks out of, as he then travels to New York City to burn his cash and relax before confronting his parents. In New York City, he visits many places, and some not quite appropriate for his age. Being written in the first person, the audience reads and only reads Holden’s thoughts and opinion’s, no matter how bias or erroneous they may be. Holden seems to lose interest abruptly from time to time, only to have critical and judgemental thoughts on everyone he meets. A novel narrated by an adolescent can have a certain tone and mood. Holden speaks in a somewhat acrimonious and cynical tone, which can be seen through his harsh metaphors,
“Sensitive. That killed me. That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat.”
Along with foul language, Holden’s thoughts and narration gives readers an irritated mood. Holden’s pessimism and neglect is a sign of his immaturity, which affects the narration of the story throughout.
Holden Caulfield is the narrator and protagonist of the story. In flunking Pencey, he does not blame himself for his failures, but blames others. His inability to accept his fallbacks are the catalyst to his cynical behaviour. Though Holden’s narration is filled with carping and criticizing other individuals, he never shows this unpleasant tone towards his younger sister, Phoebe. Phoebe is quite young, who Holden shares a rather close bond with, the one person he can relate to in the world; someone he speaks to with ease and trust. As the story revolves around Holden, his inability to accept the real world furthermore displays his immaturity.
The Catcher In The Rye is not read by adolescent students for its unique storyline and jaded narration, but for is stylistic devices throughout. Holden’s red hunting cap for instance, is one unique to him and only him. He feels comfortable wearing his cap, no matter how bizarre and quirky he may appear to be. This represents Holden’s separation from the outside world, the cap symbolizing a distinct contrast between him and society. His immaturity and personality in a way hinder his acceptance to the truths of the real world. Another symbol of his immaturity and acrimony is the record in which he wished to give to Phoebe. The shattering of the record represented Holden’s loss of purity and purpose in his life. These literary devices are some few of the many that are used throughout the book, to help depict Holden’s narration throughout the story.
Readers may seem to have disgust of Holden’s personality and view of the world, but may forget his past, which has significantly changed the present. Holden’s brother Allie died from leukemia. Holden’s bond with Allie is ardent, and is still present after Allie’s death.
“Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street. I thought I’d just go down, down, down, and nobody’d ever see me again. Boy, did it scare me. You can’t imagine. I started sweating like a bastard—my whole shirt and underwear and everything. Then I started doing something else. Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.” And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him.”
Holden’s connection to Allie represents his reluctance to let go. Losing his brother at a young age has taken a toll on his life, and can be associated with his cynical narration.
Holden is not insane. Yes, he is unique and has a very peculiar viewpoint, but that makes the narration so much better. What separates The Catcher In The Rye from other novels is the narration of an individual who’s mentality is different from the rest. Holden is the outlier of the society, and to his friends around him. The purpose of the novel is not to hate Holden Caulfield, but to sympathize with what has happened throughout his life. Even though he is cynical towards almost all people he meets, he loves Allie and Phoebe, and because he is scared. Holden does not wish to grow up, as in a sense, he will create separation from Allie and Phoebe, the two people he loves the most. His immaturity is not because of his personality, but a symptom of his fear of the consequences and responsibilities that come with maturity.
This novel contains profanity and inappropriate behaviour, hence why it is only recommended high school students and individuals of a higher age should read it. Do not misunderstand this profanity, as it enriches the narration and cynical personality of Holden Caulfield. Upon reading, you will learn the truth and purpose of Holden Caulfield, even if he doesn’t tell you directly. The nature and distinctiveness of Holden’s narration separates The Catcher In The Rye from other novels.
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