The Catcher in the Rye By J.D. Salinger

The coming of age novel, The Catcher in the Rye is my favorite book of all time. Sixteen-year-old junior Holden Caulfield is rebellious in that he wants to defy the hypocrisy of the grown world. He is restless, has failed out of four schools and holds a scar of his brother’s death. He alienates himself from everyone and is extremely judgmental of everybody in an almost funny way. It’s really just his blindness of not wanting to understand the world. He wants to be the person in life who protects innocence, hence “the catcher in the rye” title.

Holden’s relationship with his sister is so charming and kind, that it is easy to overlook his faults. It shows that despite being an unreliable narrator, who has a compulsion to lie and be judgmental, he has a genuine love for his sister and her well-being. He wants to protect her from the ugliness he sees in the world.

In a way, his love for her is what sets him in the right direction because, although Phoebe is six years younger she knows growing up is necessary. And through her eyes we see how broken Holden really is. It’s that brokenness that’s so endearing, because his sincere protective nature and his want of things to remain unchanging are beautiful.

We get to see who Holden really is and what he’s afraid of. He can’t prevent children from falling out of innocence. That transition from childhood to adulthood.  A lot of people are uncomfortable with their own weaknesses, and in that we are a lot like Holden Caulfield.

If you haven’t read this book, please do. I wasn’t required to read this in high school, but I know some people were.

What are your thoughts? Was Holden endearing to you or annoying?

copyright © 2008 Diana Bryan

3 comments

  1. Okay, I don’t think this was required reading for me. I can’t quite remember when or why I read this novel. I can see why this book was ranked one of the best English-language novels. I think the whole written as stream-of-consciousness helped show us Holden’s mind. The book is well written. But I honestly cannot stand Holden. He is the quintessential angsty teenager. I didn’t even like myself as a teenager, and I sure as heck couldn’t bear Holden and the hordes of people who are just like him. That being said, I can see how so many identify with him. Salinger knew how to write a teen and the alienation one feels as a teen. But to me Holden will always be a brat off his meds.

    1. I never thought of Catcher in the Rye as a stream of consciousness book, I suppose it could be called that. Yeah, I read a review where they described this book as, “unbelievable and painfully repetitive.” Lol. This book seems to run the extremes, either you really love Holden or you really hate him.

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