52 in 52 / Books Reviewed / Classic Literature

The Catcher in the Rye: Book 5 of 52

Hey everyone,

I’m hoping to get quicker at posting about the books I’ve read. I’m currently about a week (one book) behind right now, but I’m hoping to catch up soon! So here is book 5!

The Catcher in the Rye: Book 5 of 52The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Published by Back Bay Books on 30 January 2001
Genres: Classic Lit
Pages: 277
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned Book

The hero-narrator of The Catcher in the Rye is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
J.D. Salinger's classic novel of teenage angst and rebellion was first published in 1951. The novel was included on Time's 2005 list of the 100 best English-language novels written since 1923. It was named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. It has been frequently challenged in the court for its liberal use of profanity and portrayal of sexuality and in the 1950's and 60's it was the novel that every teenage boy wants to read.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

When I started off reading this I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. It’s a classic that most have read in high school, but I was never assigned the book so I decided to check it out with my 52 in 52. I recently read Franny and Zooey by Salinger and really like the book and the Glass family. Having said that, I was a little excited to delve into The Catcher in the Rye (also my love of The Perks of Being a Wallflower which many people compare to The Catcher in the Rye).

The novel was an easy read. It’s only around 280 pages or so. I’ve heard from various people that you either end up hating Holden Caulfield or loving him. Surprisingly for me I just ended up indifferent. Holden was written superbly. I enjoyed Salinger’s technique and skill with voice. Holden’s character never broke throughout the story and he was a believable character for me. On the point, one can’t really question Salinger’s talent as a writer.

I was a little disappointed plot wise. The plot didn’t seem to have that much of a direction (mainly because of the characteristics of the main character). I think that the plot was good for what Salinger was trying to convey with Holden, but it just was a little less “meatier” for lack of better term than I would have liked. However, I do need to take into account the time that this story was written (1951) and the time that the book takes place in (the 1950s). These are huge contributing factors for understanding why the plot isn’t driven the way I (reading in the book in 2012) would have liked. Looking back on the story and plot, I’m surprised that a book like this was able to get published in an era that was more conservative  than today’s cultural society. However the book was originally published for adults, so that might be why it got published in such a conservative time.

Many people have analysed and critiqued the famous novel. Personally, I see the story as heavily influenced by psychology and a look into human nature. Holden’s character is interesting. As I mentioned above, I was indifferent towards Holden. I didn’t love him, but I didn’t hate him. I guess I kind of just accepted him and what he was; although, he did get on my nerves sometimes. He was very set in his ways and seemed really hopeless. I felt for him in certain areas, but being a girl past her teens, I didn’t connect as much as I think other readers might.

Although I wasn’t so engrossed in the plot or  in love with the main character, The Catcher in the Rye was still a page-turner for me. It was such a quick and easy read that I just wanted to keep reading. It was a book that (if time allowed me) I could get read in one sitting. I think what I fell in love with was Salinger’s writing style and his ability to fully capture the tone and voice of a character.

Overall, I’m happy I finally read the novel. I did enjoy Franny & Zooey more and I’m hoping to read more of Salinger’s short stories (from Nine Stories). I do recommend you read Catcher in the Rye, whether for Salinger’s brilliant writing skills or for an easy read to take you away for a bit. Holden let me into a world I don’t normally see in my reading travels, or in life for that matter. It was interesting being inside his mind, although some would say it might be a depressing place to be. Salinger left readers with a lot of nice memorable passages within the story. One of my favorites was the passage where the novel draws it’s title from. Being part English major, I also loved the reference to Robert Burns. In the end, I suggest reading The Catcher in the Rye and let yourself figure out your own feelings toward Holden and what you take away from his story. Happy Reading!

Have you read The Catcher in the Rye? Do you like or dislike Holden? What do you think about Salinger?



P.S. Here is the passage I mentioned above. It’s one of my favorites!

“Anyway, I keep picturing these little kids playing some game in this big field or rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean, except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.” 

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