Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

I first read The Catcher in the Rye in March of 2009, and I did not enjoy it at all. I thought Holden Caulfield was a boring and annoying narrator, and I failed to empathize with him as the teenage audience is generally wont to do. I had wanted and expected to love Catcher, so it was a huge disappointment for me. Despite this, I picked the book back up this spring--I'm taking AP English Literature next year (yay last year of high school!), and The Catcher in the Rye, Ethan Frome and Other Stories, The Lord of the Flies, Wuthering Heights, and Animal Farm are the five required summer reading books. I wasn't really looking forward to re-reading J.D. Salinger, so I decided to read it first and get it over with.

Just in case you haven't read what is probably the most famous young adult novel ever (even though it was originally published for adults), I should probably take this opportunity to explain that The Catcher in the Rye follows and is narrated by Holden Caulfield, a teenager who relates various experiences he had one year at Pencey, the private boys' school he attended until being expelled for failing every class but English, and what he did after being expelled. The book's title comes from Robert Burns' Comin' Through the Rye, a misheard line of which led Holden to picture himself as a guardian who catches children running through a field of rye just before they fall off of a cliff.

In the book, Holden wears and carries around a red hunting cap, and often wonders what happens to the Central Park ducks when winter comes and the water freezes over. Apparently, this is some great example of symbolism, but I didn't "get" that symbolism either time that I read the book. To me, it is not necessary--while the book may carry symbolism or hidden meaning, I didn't find that I enjoyed the book less for not getting that symbolism. Rather, the main problem I had with the book the first time I read it was that Holden was just so whiny. He is immature and over-emotional, and while he pretends to be an adult through much of the book (when he is in New York City alone), nobody really falls for it. This time, however, I somehow didn't find his whining as troubling, though it certainly did not go unnoticed. Salinger is very good at portraying things in a way that made me think, "Yeah, wow, that's really how it is in real life," whatever "it" is. One example would be some of the things that Phoebe, Holden's younger sister, says and does: her actions and words are completely in accordance with how children act, at least in my experience. The only thing that really bugged me this time around was one of Holden's verbal tics, "It really is." It seemed like every time Holden described something, he followed it with "It really is." I found myself thinking, "Yes, Holden, I KNOW it really is, or you wouldn't have said it, now please get on with the narration!"

All in all, I loved The Catcher in the Rye this time around, and I'm very glad I had an excuse to re-read it.


  1. One of my favorite books!! I'm planning a re-read soon! I haven't read it since high school (6ish years ago) and I thought maybe I should still make sure it is a favorite. lol. Have you read Franny and Zooey? I loved that one too!

  2. I haven't read Franny and Zooey yet, but I want to and probably will fairly soon.

  3. This is coming up in my book pile, I'm really excited!