The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 4/5 stars.

I am Holden Caulfield.

Okay, not really. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of all the animosity people feel toward him. He does deserve the hate – he’s hypocritical, judgmental, whiny, and somewhat of a jerk overall. In fact, his awkwardness around the concept of homosexuality almost angered me.

But, as a seventeen-year-old male (just turned 17 last week!) I can honestly say that I connect with Holden. I usually detest characters who complain on every other page, but Holden complained on pretty much every page and I still empathized with him. He’s a lonely guy with an idealistic, unrealistic perspective who doesn’t know how to hold his own in a world where not everything can be watered down to black and white and right and wrong. He’s caring, emotional, and intelligent, but so thoroughly disconnected from everyone that he cannot express what he wants, if he even knows what that is. He is hurt, he needs to heal, and he is one of the few fictional characters who I would give a hug to if I could.

Overall, major respect points to J.D. Salinger for writing what is commonly called the first real “young-adult” book/classic, and for creating the most banned book ever. The Catcher in the Rye should be read by anyone searching for a wonderfully misanthropic, tragically classic coming-of-age story.

*interestingly enough, Carol Gilligan, a researcher in the field of developmental psychology, states that boys have a more absolute view of right and wrong while girls are more likely to take into account situational factors. Perhaps this plays a part in me and Holden’s thinking pattern…

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4 Comments

Filed under 4 stars, Book Reviews, Books

4 responses to “The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

  1. I connected with him at 17 as well, and it amazed me when I read it again in my 30s, because I hated it the second time. I do believe it has EVERYTHING to do with age. At 17, I understood where he was coming from, and I didn’t have the experience of more years on earth to impact my opinion. In my 30s, I couldn’t stand him at all…everything that I connected with at 17 infuriated me as an adult. It is absolutely fair to say that Salinger meant this for teens, and it is best read as a teen when we most appreciate it.

    • Agreed! I suppose it is one of the few classics that people should pick up in their adolescent years as opposed to waiting to read it when they are adults. Thank you for reading and commenting!

  2. Alicia

    I just read this book for English class, and was honestly dreading it. I heard my friends and other classmates complain about how boring and depressing it is (and Holden does use the word “depressed” quite often), but I thought it was great after the second sentence. Even though none of Holden’s situations remotely related to me personally, I completely understood his thoughts and perspective. Yes he is a jerk, yes he calls everyone “phonies” but in the end he really cares about people, and he doesn’t want to hurt anyone. I absolutely loved his relationship with Phoebe; she is just so adorable, with the record pieces and her suitcase, you can tell she really loved Holden as much as he loved her. Although people may see him as someone apathetic to most things, he does care about the things that truly matter. Sorry for going out of tangent, but I think he’s one of my favorite characters because he’s so messed up yet so realistic. Anyways, I really agree with your comment about giving him a hug. Through the hole story I was just wishing to go in the story and be the friend who would actually listen to him. So, thanks for the post!

    • Some of my peers dismissed Holden as being too pessimistic and whiny too – I agree with your evaluation of him though, because despite his harsh and apathetic exterior, he does truly care in his inner core. His relationship with Phoebe exemplifies this. Don’t apologize because none of your post is a tangent, he is one of my favorite characters too! Thanks for reading and commenting. (:

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