The Catcher in the Rye Review
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger: My Review
Rating: 4/5 stars
Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful, reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry.
The Catcher in the Rye was an extremely unique book but one that I found to be totally captivating and memorable. Being the first modern classic I've read, I wasn't sure what to expect but I devoured it in a couple of days and, while I can certainly see why it is a book that people have very divided opinions about, I was so pleasantly surprised to have found a book written decades ago that put things I didn't even realize I was feeling down on paper.
The story is set in New York and follows sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield who has been kicked out of his fourth school, Pencey Prep, but walks out of there before he is really supposed to. We follow him for a week or so as he goes about his life with no real objective, perpetuated with a very prevalent conflict between him wanting to connect with other people on an adult level yet also wanting to reject the adult world as "phony" and retreat into the innocence of childhood.
The weird thing about The Catcher in the Rye is that it has virtually no plot whatsoever - in fact, after reflecting back on it several times, I'm still not really sure how I would give a synopsis. Part of me would have liked a bit more of a core plot to drive the story as some parts tended to drag a little, which is why I didn't give it a full 5 stars, yet the other part of me rejoiced at this character-driven story that not only was executed so cleverly in my opinion, but anchored by one of the most incredibly relatable and darkly humorous protagonists I've ever had the pleasure of reading about.
Salinger crafts his book through the idiosyncratic narrative of Holden which is mainly full of swearing, catchphrases and promises to do things that he never does. The whole time I was reading it I felt like I was inside Holden's head and was able to understand him to such a great extent where I could literally predict the way he was going to react to certain situations or people. His thoughts are childish yet subtly philosophical, symbolizing the juxtaposition between adolescence and adulthood that he struggles with, and I personally found him to be a highly opinionated yet intelligent teenager from whom a lot can be learnt.
What I loved most about Holden is how he is just the epitome of typical juvenile attitudes, grasping onto the last threads of his childhood whilst coming to terms with his impending adulthood. He picks out the worst in everyone, his relationships are brittle, he is full of misplaced angst, under the impression he is 'depressed', and cannot cope with responsibilities - and this is pretty much what shapes the story. For that reason, I can for sure see the argument that Holden is a whiny, naive representation of the emotional self-absorption of youth and rootless stereotypical masculinity, and is therefore the reason why a lot of readers really dislike this book. And I have to admit, there are points in the novel where I wanted to shake him and scream in his face that his contempt is pointless and completely unnecessary when he's seen nothing of the world and what it can do to people. Despite this, however, I really do think that Holden's meaningless anger is what makes him such a realistic encapsulation of how we feel as we roam the boundary between youth and growing up, and in fact made the story one that was surprisingly thought-provoking as I feel that everyone could learn something from Holden and find meaning in life where he doesn't.
Overall, as controversial and unusual as it is, I'm so glad that I read The Catcher in the Rye and was able to experience the journey of Holden as he tries to find his place in the world. I would like to re-read it at some point so I can do a more detailed review, but for now I give it 4 out of 5 stars and look forward to reading more modern classics just like this one.