WARNING: Spoilers for anyone who hasn’t read the book.
I finished reading J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye today. Despite being such a short book (at just over 200 pages), I was surprised that I managed to finish it so quickly. I read every day but sparingly – perhaps on the train on the way to work if I’m lucky enough to snag a seat, or sometimes during my lunch hour. (Well, lunch half-hour but sometimes I cheat a little.)
I was also surprised at how easy it was to read. I have this childish preconception that books now dubbed ‘literary classics’ will, simply for that reason, be difficult to read, both in terms of content and language. Fortunately for me, and to my enduring delight, I often find that this is not the case. It was so with Catcher in the Rye: the language and tone of the narrative was very modern-retro, and hilariously pock-marked with the protagonist’s incessant swearing – a combination that had me hooked from the first paragraph.
People have seen me reading this book at work and said things like “Oh I loved that book”, and I’ve found this reaction quite difficult to reconcile with my own. At first I thought it must be because I hadn’t yet finished the book and had missed some vitally cheery ending, but now that I have, I am still unable to be so… effusive about it. It’s not at all that I didn’t like the book – on the contrary, it kept me both entertained and ponderous right through – but when you get right down it is, it’s not exactly a terribly ‘feel-good’ read, is it? In the colourful words of Holden himself, “It certainly didn’t make me feel too gorgeous”.
The entire book – or at least a sizeable chunk of it – is written as the continuous stream of consciousness of one Holden Caufield, the teenaged son of a wealthy family, who, despite his privileged environment, has managed to get kicked out of yet another in a long line of prestigious boarding schools. While every one else his age is attempting to battle through school, get their grades, date their girlfriends and think about going to college, Holden remains detached from this world, bored, disgusted, and unable – or just unwilling – to fit in. With this latest strike against his already blemished school record though, Holden finds himself at a crossroads, faced with a future he finds quite suddenly to be rather bleak. Suffice to say, he doesn’t like it one bit.
Then again, there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of anything that Holden likes. His little sister Phoebe, all of ten years old and the center of his emotional axis, hits the nail on the head when she throws the truth in his face: “Name one thing you really like” she demands of him, and he is at a loss.
Rebellious and troubled, Holden blames all the wrong turns he’s taken in the past on the world around him. He is convinced that almost everyone he knows is ‘phony’ – putting on an act for the benefit of those around them. Every new person he meets during his 3-day aimless journey around New York has something about them that he finds utterly distasteful. Reading him, I found that at times, it was easy to forget he was just a young boy – his constant negativity somehow gave me the impression that he was older than his years. This was probably aided further by the fact that he spent much of his time pretending to be much older than he was in order to be served alcohol, prostitutes and other adult commodities.
Still for all, it is difficult to dislike Holden. I think the reason for this is precisely because of his youth. Whether or not he sounds older than his years, there are always reminders that he is in fact very young and because of this, I often found myself both feeling sorry for him and also laughing a little at his expense. There always remained the comfortingly familiar (albeit unsaid) adages “it’s just a phase” and “he’ll probably grow out of it”. The fact that he is just an adolescent with many more years ahead of him is always at the back of the reader’s mind and even as he wishes he were dead, we know that it is unlikely that he would ever succumb to that wish.
I also liked Holden for his rare, uncharacteristic, but still endearing enjoyment of seemingly random moments, things and people. He would find utter satisfaction in something as insignificant as a red hunting hat, or a child humming on the street, or a chance encounter with two nuns over breakfast. Every now and then his stream of largely negative thought would be pleasantly broken by random incidents like these. Coupled with his extreme affection for both his little sister Phoebe and deceased young brother Allie, these occurrences served to soften the harder, harsher edges of his personality. And although they were quite few and far between, those moments revealed a truer side to his personality – which was simply that of a confused, frightened and alienated young person.
And haven’t we all been there?
Frightened when we’ve taken a wrong turn in our lives, unsure of what lies ahead, unable to assimilate with our surroundings, wanting to escape a bad situation, defensive of our mistakes, convinced it’s everybody’s fault but our own, and – what I found the most haunting of all – “afraid of disappearing”: of vanishing without a trace, with no legacy left behind, and having been of no use to anybody. These will be anxieties familiar to any reader, regardless of their age. They are absolutely universal and will be the most compelling reason for our inability to hate Holden: we all have a little bit of Holden inside of ourselves.
A loss of direction can sometimes be the most frightening feeling in the world. So can loneliness. And it is both that Holden feels in equal measure during those three days in which he puts off telling his parents the bad news about his school and instead desperately tries to occupy his time, calling up everyone he can think of to keep him company and finding that most of them have better things to do. The few people who do agree to meet him are quickly put off by his social awkwardness and almost aggressive need for their company.
Although he constantly points out people around him as being phonies who do not act true to themselves, the entire narrative of Catcher in the Rye is a showcase of Holden’s own performance in the role of a young boy full of false bravado, trying to fit into an adult world, trying to make adult decisions for himself, and failing miserably at it all. Even Holden only half believes his own act, but tries to distract us and himself from this with a steady stream of judgment of others.
I was only ever worried for Holden during his conversation with his old teacher, Mr. Antolini who provides what feels like the novel’s only moment of clarity. It is the only part of the narrative that feels independent of Holden. During their largely one-sided conversation, Antolini neatly recaps Holden’s predicament, voicing many of the readers’ own fears for Holden, and also advises his former student against an impending “terrible fall”. Coming from an adult – even a drunk adult with a seemingly lecherous intent – it seemed almost like a warning both to Holden and the reader that something bad was about to happen.
Reaching the end of the book, I was relieved when the culmination of Holden’s dramatic few days turned out to be rather anticlimactic. The prodigal son returns home and is disinclined to talk any further about his escapades as he awaits his transfer to yet another new school and yet another new beginning.
…He had me worried there for a second, though.
In the end, it is another one of those seemingly random events that turns things around for Holden. He has a moment of absolute catharsis while he watches his sister on a merry-go-round in the rain and that seems to be that. I believe that in that very moment, he realizes for the first time that his actions may seriously hurt someone that he loves more than life itself: Phoebe. As it turns out, there is someone who would feel a terrible loss at his absence – the little girl with her blue coat on the carousel in the pouring rain. His life is worthwhile – indeed absolutely necessary – to the wellbeing of another’s. He is needed.
And thus, Holden leaves us quite secure in the knowledge that while he still has a fair amount of growing up to do, the worst is most probably over. A surprisingly happier ending than I predicted, but an apt one all the same.
Come to think of it, it has left me feeling quite gorgeous, after all.
Catcher in The Rye Opinion EssayGet Your
Starting at Just $13.90 a page
Aaron B Ms. F ENG-4U Nov, 1st, 2013 Catcher in The Rye Opinion Essay In the novel Catcher in The Rye, Salinger has employed a very realistic portrayal of teenagers and how they act. There are plenty of characteristic on how he properly conveyed this to the audience and he also spread these characteristics through-out all of the characters that are used within the novel. Firstly, you have Holden; a teenager who is not always the brightest bulb in the cabinet, but he has a clear understanding on how the world works and yet he ironically does not have the brains to execute this knowledge directly into the world.
Secondly, you have Stradlater; a teenager who just spends all his time going out with girls and partying. Some might say he is a ‘party animal’. Lastly, you have Ackley; a mostly grotesque teenager who does not listen to social cues, acts profoundly around people actions and his practically obnoxious about everything (not knowing, that is how he is acting though). So, Salinger’s opinion (when it comes to characteristics of a teenager) is that all teenagers are blatantly ignorant everything, that all teenagers think they can just coast their way through life and do not have any respect for the people around us.
Holden does not really think about what he is going to say, he just kind of spits everything out. Maybe he is an intelligent boy and all, but how he speaks and what he says proves otherwise. Holden states “I practically got T. B… I’m pretty healthy, though. ” (J. D Salinger, 5) In this sentence he talks about basically having a life threatening disease and then tries to reassure to the reader that he is ‘pretty healthy’, I personally think that in a logical statement he would have said something on the lines of “I practically got T. B… [I should get that checked out]. ” (J.
D Salinger, 5) While Holden is having a conversation with Mr. Spencer he even acknowledges his own stupidity to himself/the reader through the idea of immaturity. “I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen. ” (Salinger, 9) It is kind of ironic if you think about it, he does not want to be known as dumb or stupid or an idiot, yet he has the occasional time when he acts like a thirteen year old. Holden, he understands where his faults are, but he cannot come to a conclusion on how to actually fix them he just carries on with his day as if it does not matter.
Holden’s roommate Stradlater thoroughly enjoys going out on Friday night, Saturday night, well every night. To do so, he has to find ways to be able to still do well in school while 0slacking off and shrugging all his work aside and his solution; anyone he can find. At one point Stradlater and Holden (because they are roommates) meet up in their room and Stradlater asks Holden is he can do a big favour for him and if he was planning on going out. Holden replies asking what the favour is and that he did not have plans of any sorts.
Afterwards Stradlater asks ‘the big question’, “I got about a hundred pages to read for history… How ‘bout writing a composition for me…? ” (Salinger, 28) In this instance he had just initiated a vital opening for Holden to be a friend or to just blow him off, and Holden accepts the offer and says he will do the paper for him. Stradlater had just avoided doing his work for one reason; he wanted to go out that night with a girl. Stradlater is also a guy who knows how to be flattering enough that he can convince people to do things for him, you could look at it as he has it better than everyone else because he is ‘prettier’ than other people.
He compliments Holden’s new hat with the term “sharp” and then almost instantaneously afterwards asks “Listen. Are ya gonna write that composition for me? I have to know. ” (Salinger, 29) Why did he need to know you might ask? Well, if Holden has explicitly said “no. ” to him then Stradlater would have stayed in that night to do it, although Holden says “If I get the time, I will…” (Salinger, 29) Stradlater, using Holden like a boat in the river of life, just expects Holden to float on his way through life, carrying Stradlater along while he is having a party in the boat.
Finally, there is Ackley. Now, Ackley has a knack for hanging out in the wrong place for too long. In chapter three, Holden is laying down in his room reading a book and enjoying the feeling of his new hat on the top of his head when, let it be hold that his neighbour Ackley comes strolling over into his room without any true intent on why he is there. Ackley moves friskily around the room, touching everything he can multiple times while trying to hold a conversation with Holden (who clearly does not want one). I’ve read this same sentence about twenty times since you came in. ” (Salinger, 20) After stating that Ackley was a disturbance to him, he still did not get the hint and clearly not picking up on the cue to get out of Holden’s room. Later on while Ackley is still occupying the room, Holden says to his self “I sometimes horse around to keep myself from getting bored. ” (Salinger, 21) Once Holden starts to annoy Ackley, trying to make him vacate the room he STILL does not leave.
So, clearly Ackley has a problem with following what people are trying to put out to him because he is just plain ignorant about other people and quite frankly himself if you were to take a look at how he manages his outer image. In conclusion, J. D Salinger has made the novel Catcher in The Rye a story that really shows how teenagers act/acted. Salinger also adds his own input on how he thinks teenagers act and/or acted in our time period and the time period at which this novel was written and/or published in through the characters he had created.
Do you like
this material?Get help to write a similar one
Three of the main characters; Holden, Stradlater and Ackley are all extremely different which expresses a wide variety of teenager characteristic. Holden symbolizes blatant ignorance for the world around him, Stradlater shows us how un-caring and un-motivated teenagers are when it comes to working on anything and lastly, Ackley describes the lack of respect that we as teenagers have for the people around us. Salinger has made it pretty clear that he believes that teenagers need to change and used this novel to get his point across the world.
Author: Allan Leider
Catcher in The Rye Opinion Essay
We have so large base of authors that we can prepare a unique summary of any book. Don't believe? Check it!
How fast would you like to get it?