The Catcher in the Rye – Review

Month:  November 2010

Book-Had was reading:  The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger


Probably considered as one of the most hard-hitting novels of its time, this evergreen cult classic has many facets to it.

The narration is a total 10/10. One of the most captivating ones we’ve read recently. Holden starts with a cracker by saying that he ain’t going to tell you all about his life like the usual “David Copperfield stuff”.  It gets to you right from there. The more you read the more you realize that there is much much more to this tiny classic than meets the eye.

J.D.Salinger has tried to handle various issues pertaining & still persistent in what people would normally refer to as the typical “American Lifestyle”. The book brings out the angst felt by a teenager through the eyes of its protagonist, the narrator- Holden Caulfield. It has highlighted the physical, emotional changes and strain felt by a teenager, who is still in his formative years, but presumes to be the master of it all. But Holden’s point of view is not only the ramifications of a disturbed teenager. The crux is not his “disturbed” nature, but why is his character “disturbed” in the first place. As Holden reveals himself little by little at a time we realize that the death of his brother Allie was a severe blow to him. We see that the day Allie dies Holden breaks all the windows of their station wagon. While this little passage just might deal with the immediate trauma we find out little by little that the trauma Holden has captured and hidden inside him is not at all the usual short lived one.

The death of Allie has had a deep effect on him. Time & again we see references made to him.

Holden feels like the whole world was in a way responsible for the death of Allie.  According to Holden the world probably so full of crooks that the one smart and innocent person just couldn’t survive amongst so many “phony” people.

Does this book try to bring out the thought process of a teen trying to figure out his bearings of this world?

Personally, I wouldn’t say so, as I feel the book has taken the picture of a specific teenager to the extreme end of disillusionment, helplessness coupled with guilt and a never ending war with humanity.  But in isolated cases, Holden’s viewpoints are exceptions & cannot be binding rules. Albeit his condition is pitiable, the main seed for his condition is the outcome of his bad choices, extreme cynicism & pessimism. But then again, can one blame Holden for mouthing those things that we ourselves sometimes have to deal with? Is his only fault saying out loud just those very things that hurt us and we keep quiet about it thinking and saying, “That’s the way it ought to be I suppose.” Holden, in his special way, educates us in those priceless nuggets of human nature that probably is, or rather was, difficult to sew into words.

The title of the book is only a small representation of the various parts dealt in the book.

The narration of the author, its not the usual sobered out writing as prevalent in the time the book was written. On the contrary, it has a dynamic approach to narration & is taken completely at a first hand basis. The language used, hence is what many would chose to call unparliamentarily.

Even the flow of narration is affected by this style of free writing as one sees jumps in the writing. But it is these jumps that make the book an experience. The narration flows in tiny rivulets, from one stream to another, but binding it with a powerful punch. It’s just not some “David Copperfield” stuff.

One sees the book to have certain resemblance to another cult classic The Fountain Head by Ayn Rand. Both Holden & Howard Roark are idealists & are set to see the world only through their monocle and not expand the horizons of their vision to garner in the complete picture.

There is a certain age at which this book should be read, & that surely isn’t teenage. As an adult, not completely mature enough but still beyond the rebellious teenage years, one is able to ponder over & think about what the book actually stands for. It is not highlighting the teenagers’ mindset; neither is it justifying the rebellious, over the top attitude of a teenager.

The author has only chosen a teenager to bring out what he deems as the flaws present in the society. He has tried to bring out the coming of age of teenagers, stress of teenagers in the brinks of turning into adults, the loss of innocence of kids during the growing up phase and many such profoundly persistent issues.

I would only suggest this book to those who have the maturity to understand the inner depth of the book rather than to those who would only want to interpret this book as a bible for teenagers.

As a character Holden speaks loudest…and clearest!!!

-Nikhil Rao

Book-Had rates ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ 4/5.


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