The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

catcher-in-the-rye-book-cover-sourceSalinger use little plot in this story with great efficiency. The main protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye is a boy called Holden Caufield. He narrates the whole story while he’s recovering from breakdown.

At the beginning, he looks like a fairly typical boy, but it soon becomes evident that his personality does not confirm to the teenager stereotype. He’s an awkward boy who can’t comprehend his world. First, he gets expelled and is not due back after Christmas holidays, which starts on Wednesday. Second, he runs away from school, even before it ends, spending the rest of the days before Wednesday to roam New York City. When the week hits Wednesday, he goes home only to find his parents are gone.

This book is full of rude words that aren’t supposed to be said in my home and school. But it’s necessary to read beyond his words to know Holden’s personality. He hates life so bad, shown by his cynism and his lack of instrospection. Everything is described by Holden as “Goddamn and Old”. It’s a contrast between Holden’s description of his action and his apparent action. For example, he narrates that he is walking to the Central Park at night while worries to catch pneumonia and explains his hair has icicles. He does not even realize to think how strange to walk at night in the freezing weather. It may be weird to adults, but for some strange reason, I do understand Holden’s obliviousness. It happens to every teenager. I am almost a teenager myself and I can always catch my sense of strangeness going on inside me. It’s like I am like Holden, having mental imbalance. A bit, though.

I feel that I could describe Holden as ‘nobody loves him and he loves nobody back.’ He is an antihero in the story. For the first time in my life, I understand what my mother always said to me, “it’s not always wrong to like an antihero.” As an antihero, Holden said: It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disapearing everytime you crossed a road. What a quote! Truly Holden Caulfield style.

Holden has no girlfriend. Everybody in his school has one, even Pencey has one too. Holden is hinted to like a girl, named Jane. They are not in the same school, but they are neighbours. They like to playe with each other a lot when Holden was a child. Holden goes jealous when his roommate, Pencey, said that he went on a date with her. I can say it’s a unpleasant experience to like someone quietly, but no one can avoid when it happens. This is part of growing up.

True, through Holden, I see that the transition between childhood to adulthood is long and painful. The world of childhood is pure and innocence; while the life of adulthood is full of cruelity and unjustice people. Salinger shows that the adult life is complex in the teenagers’ eyes on the brink of entering it.

Jerome David Salinger (January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010) was an American writer who won acclaim early in life. He led a very private life for more than a half-century. He published his final original work in 1965 and gave his last interview in 1980. Salinger captures the confusion of a teenager when faced with the challenge of adapting to an adult society. Thank you, Sir, to voice out my generation beautifully.


2 thoughts on “The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

  1. I too read this book when I was very young – and then again in my later 20s. then in my 30s – and each time I felt I understood it better.
    What I have noticed a lot of people don’t pick up – which is largely the fault of the book’s style – is that Holden has been and is repeatedly psychologically traumatized throughout the book, showing (not telling) the reader what lies at the root of his cynicism and eventual breakdown. It isn’t clear if he has actually been molested in his life, but certainly he alludes to perverts and pedophiles many times – which explains why he eventually freaks out when he awakens on his teacher’s couch to said teacher tucking him in and panics, reading it as a sexual pass (we the readers shall never know the teacher’s actual intentions, only Holden’s take on them). He has also witnessed a classmate’s suicidal defenestration, following the school bullies’ brutal hazing. He had a brother die. And in the space of 3 days, he gets his ass kicked at least 3 times (by his school mate, the pimp, and some bar bouncers.) Any of these on their own would be enough to traumatize people… In other words, Holden has been through a lot. Add to that that he is an exceptionally sensitive person, and it’s no wonder his hair is already grey.
    A lot of readers see Holden as a spoiled rich kid who doesn’t know how good he has it. But if you read the book carefully – between the lines, as they say – his reactions are perfectly understandable.

    • I found myself agreeing to every word you say. It’s been a long time since i have picked up the book, but your comment has brought everything rushing back into my mind. Yes, Holden has been into a lot of stress enough to make a person traumatized, yet many people can question the reason behind Holden’s sarcastic nature and his antisocial one. Holden’s personality could be partly because of his adolescent years which was fueled with the traumatizing events which he has undergone through. Thanks for the great inisight about the story! Really appreciate the comment.

      – Elysa

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