The Catcher in the Rye: Book Review

Classic books are can tackle serious issues or issues that affect a certain age group. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger tackles issues such as innocence, depression, and many more. Keep reading for a brief of the book and why you should revisit this classic novel! 

The Catcher in the Rye Summary

17-year old Holden Caulfield has been kicked out of Pencey Preparatory Academy, a boarding school in Pennsylvania. It is winter break and he is set to return home in a few days. Caufield failed four out of his five classes and only passed English, a subject that he enjoys. After returning from a trip from New York City after Caulfield lost the fencing team’s equipment, he is off to see his history teacher. 

After his meeting with his teacher, Caulfield returns to his room and talks to his neighbor Robert Ackley. He is impolite and has little consideration for others but Caulfield still hates that he is not liked much by everyone. After a fight with his roommate Ward Stradlater, whom goes on a date with a girl Caulfield knew growing up, Caulfield decides to leave his dorm and takes the train to New York City and book a hotel until he can return home Wednesday.

The Catcher in the Rye Holden Caullfield classic novel
The Catcher in the Rye book review

While taking a taxicab to a hotel at night, Caulfield asks the driver if he knows where the ducks of central park go in the winter? The taxi driver doesn’t know and doesn’t try to hold a conversation even though Caulfield tries to get him to engage in one. Caulfield arrives to his hotel and calls up people to spend time with until Wednesday arrives.

But things don’t go as Caulfield imagines it would. He finds the people around him to be phony and sabotages his hangouts with them. A drunk night out leads Caulfield to sneak home and visit his younger sister. He promises to see her show but as everything starts to overwhelm him, he wants to leave everything behind and start a new life. 

Commentary

 I remember reading this book for class in high school and I enjoyed it. Reading it a second time was a unique experience because I didn’t even remember the scene with the prostitute…Caulfield is an interesting character that will ultimately annoy you. He is a walking contradiction and if that wasn’t bad enough, his limited vocabulary starts to get annoying fast. If only he would stop saying “it killed me” after every sentence.

There is a lot to examine about Caulfield but I do believe the author could have made him a better protagonist than he was. As someone who is trying to cling to his childhood and not ready to face adulthood, Caulfield represents a lot of people. But he is also traumatized and we see that with his change of mood swings and always wanting to leave and start anew. 

This novel is still going strong today even though it was published in 1951. It annually sells a million copies and has sold over 65 million copies total. The Catcher in the Rye is often included in many best books of all time.

With that said, the anecdote that I came across and wanted to share was the one involving John Lennon. After Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman, the shooter was arrested. On him was a copy of this book that he had purchases the same day. Inside the book, he had written “To Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, This is my statement”

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Conclusion

Reading for fun and reading a book as an assignment are two different experiences. Oddly enough, I enjoyed it more as a teenager and that makes sense because it tackles themes that teenagers experience. Reading it now makes me see things much more clearly and see it from another perspective. 

It may have been published in 1951 but it highlights the struggles of growing up. Caulfield isn’t perfect but he makes us think and when a book is able to do that, it has succeeded. While this book isn’t going to make my favorite list, I do enjoy interesting characters and Caulfield is as interesting as they come. Happy reading!

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