The Catcher in the Rye is about a sixteen-year-old kid Holden Caulfield, who got kicked out of his phony school Pencey and roams the streets for a couple of days. It’s a good book. It really is. Old Salinger really knows how to write. Some times it got depressing as hell, but other times old Holden killed me.
This book isn’t your typical classic work of literature. For one, the prose is entirely filtered through Holden’s point of view, and how he spoke was pretty much your typical 16-year-old New York rich kid. There was a lot of swearing, a lot of underage drinking, a lot of phonies. At Pencey, Holden has flunked every class except for English, in which he seemed to have an aptitude for.
It’s strange how quickly I changed from being “this book is about an angsty teenager who hates everything” to “I feel everything Holden’s feeling and I want to both laugh and cry”. It’s really easy to feel for Holden, a sarcastic delinquent who is at times, so pitiful you would just want to give him a big old hug.
“You could tell, for one thing, that they never went anywhere swanky for lunch. It made me so damn sad when I thought about it, their never going anywhere swanky for lunch or anything. I knew it wasn’t too important, but it made me sad anyway.”
Holden never seems to like anyone (except for his younger sister Phoebe), gets annoyed at how phony people are, but once they leave, yet still feels sorry for them and misses them. Even old Ackley kid. This noisy pimply guy who has no concept of personal space. He’s always inside his own head and judging people and feeling sad about people. He goes to some places inside his head and for a brief period considers being a hermit pretending to be deaf and mute just to never have a conversation again. But this moment passes, as we know it would, and Holden eventually does go home.
I will say that probably not everyone will see themselves in Holden, and I definitely am not the type to flunk school and call everyone phonies. But there is something about this book that makes you want to cry. You’ll probably find all sorts of scholarly articles written about Catcher in the Rye and I’m not about to dissect the book or psychoanalyze it. It’s so funny and inspiring, and a lot of the times, it will make you wanna cry. There’s just something about this book, something about Holden Caulfield that will make you love it.
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of 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.”
– J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye