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Thursday, November 21, 2013

14 of 1001 Books: J.D Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield might be one of the saddest characters I've read. His character also seems to be a huge draw of a line between whether you hate or love the book though. As I was reading though all I found was a boy who probably had some severe trauma happen in his past, and now as a teen his rebellion toward has what has happened is manifesting itself. I understand not particularly liking Holden, but I feel it would be difficult to not be empathetic to what he hints has happened to him. J.D. Salinger uses his talent for the first person and dialogue though to bring a book that feels real and is controversial.

Summary: Holden Caulfield feels alienated from the world. His peers he thinks are phonies, the girls seem not too interested in him, and his parents could be less than observant about their son. After getting kicked out of another prep school, Caulfield decides he will rent a motel room in New York where he will spend time till Wednesday, when he is supposed to return from school. His time in the city only further depresses him though. The only person that he seems to be set on being around and cares about is his sister, Phoebe.


Characters: Maybe you have to be around teens enough to see Holden reflected in may of them. His traits, personality, and perspective of adults is one that still is common to find today, and it's why Salinger is so brilliant at writing a character that probably many in that age group can relate to, which is why it's a shame it's a banned book and they can't read it. I get that it has strong language and sexual content, but banning this isn't keep anyone from that age group from what they don't already know. It's at least more easy to relate to than an Ernest Hemingway story that is meant for like men in their mid-twenties or thirties. Holden meets a variety of characters, and the thing is to always keep in mind that how we see these people are threw his eyes. These could be otherwise nice, normal people, or Phoebe could even be a child terror, but because of Holden's perception we may be less inclined to like Mr. Antolini, or more likely to wish we had a little sister like Phoebe. Salinger perfects first person narrative.

Writing: The writing does ramble a lot, but I think it suits the narrative and setting. You're within a teen boy's mind so it's always a good thing to keep that in mind. It's rampant with curse words, sex, and maybe the more rare thing, philosophical puzzling. The dialogue also leaves room for some memorable quotes that probably no one will use, because as a cynic everyone has a questionable character according to Holden. Who can you trust and who you can't? Is one you never know.

Plot: The plot is based around a teen that feels alone. I would think that everyone could relate to at one point not feeling that anyone is someone you can rely on, but some say they can't relate to Holden. It's not that Holden's a pleasant character, but he also seems to be unsure of who he is. I don't know how you can hate someone so much who doesn't even know who he is. He does lots of things in the story that never show a consistent train of thought or plan. One moment he is bashing religion the next he wants to donate money to nuns to help them with their collection. Then another he wants just sex and then he wants something real that is beyond sex. There are also lots of questions left to ponder about Holden. Love it or hate it you most likely had a long rant or conversation about this novel after you read it.

The Catcher in the Rye is one I'm glad I didn't read as a teen though the audience might be able to relate to the themes and plot better. It does present a lot of deeper pondering as well that as a teen I might have overlooked. Salinger shows how well he can take you into the mind of someone though and show everything from their perspective right down to how how own perception is so biased.


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