Author's Note: "Catcher in the Rye" is, by no means, a story written for children. I recommend having at least 13 years of age before attempting to read this book and interpret it as a serious and insightful piece of literature, as it contains mature situations and minor profanity.
After a great deal of meditation and basking in nostalgia, I decided the time was ripe to write something for the Whyville Times. Indeed, Athena92 has emerged alive (thus far) from the grasps of IB school work and is blessing the rest of Whyville with a review of one of the most moving books in American literature.
Allow me to digress: there are very few books in the world that haunt me. By the term "haunt," these books dwell in the corner of my consciousness, in which certain passages affect my every day activity. One of these passages is the description of the Little Prince's body falling soundlessly to the ground as he surrenders himself to the pangs of love, and another being that of Holden Caufield reciting his history to the psychiatrist of a mental health ward at the start of the novel, "Catcher in the Rye".
The Little Prince is for another day; right now, however, I feel it my duty to present to those who are unfamiliar the book "Catcher in the Rye", in which a young man named Holden Caufield recounts the days before his eventual psychological breakdown. I believe well have a little bit of Holden in us.
Written by J.D. Salinger and published in 1951, Catcher in the Rye was initially met with controversy. I frankly believe that this was so because few people wanted to admit that the book was so easy to relate to. Salinger wrote the book with a technique called "stream of conscious," which means that Holden, the main character, narrates informally his thought process. Through this clever technique, Salinger enables the reader to develop a more personal relationship with his character, which becomes very powerful as the novel continues.
Let me tell you about Holden: the boy is sixteen years-old, has just been expelled from his fourth private school due to his poor marks, hates "phonies," and is practically limitless. These facts alone are not what make him a character to relate to, but what he eventually says and does in the novel. Small things, like the neglect to call a girl he likes and thinks about constantly, or his failure to do well in school, regardless of the fact that he is clearly a bright young man. If you have ever felt defeated, misunderstood, ignored, awkward, stupid, or just annoyed with the great injustice of it all, then this book is for you. Even if it was written almost 60 years ago, "Catcher in the Rye" has a timeless quality that lets the reader (of any generation) see a bit of themselves in Holden Caufield. I think that this versatility qualifies "Catcher in the Rye" to be one of the greatest American novels of all time.
A brief, spoiler-free summary: Holden Caufield leaves his school for New York City upon his expulsion, where he stays for a few days, spending a great amount of his time thinking about the things wrong with the world and responding to his slightest impulses, which eventually lands in in a mental health facility. During his stay in NYC, of course, Holden finds himself in situations he would rather not, and deals with them in rather unconventional ways.
I reflect upon the book now, and feel deeply that had I known about the novel and read it during my Freshman year, my life would be much changed. Holden Caufield's story can be interpreted as a warning and a hero of the adolescents of the world. I can only hope that the rest of those who read it are as affected as I was. And, as cheesy as it sounds (I am hardly a frequenter of such hackneyed phrases), this book changed my life.
Good luck and happy reading,