Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The first time I read Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was when I was 16 years old, a mere tenth grader.  I didn't like the book upon my first read.  In fact, I may have hated it.  Why?  Simply because of all of the swearing.  I was a very rule following type of kid in high school and to think that we were reading a book where the main characters swears all of the time was insane to my young mind.  I didn't sympathize with him at all.  I shouldn't say that I read the book in high school actually....I rarely ever read the books assigned to me except summer reading.  But my class went over the book for quite some time and I couldn't figure out why so many people were loving this novel.  Many of my peers loved the book and claimed it changed their life.  I just couldn't see how.
Being an English major in college sure changed my perspective on a lot of things.  Not only did I hear my peers and my professors rave about the book but I now noticed references to it in other works of fiction and in TV shows and movies and YouTube videos.  It seemed that Catcher in the Rye was not going to let me go so easily.  I soon learned through all of the snippets that I encountered the book in that the book revolved around the theme of childhood innocence which is something I have a big interest in.  I knew that I would have to read the book myself and soon.  I can now say that after reading this book in full, I loved it.  I spent almost an entire night reading it and that night was...New Year's Eve.  Who would do such a thing?  This gal.
"The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one." -Wilhelm Stekel
I feel a bit cliche when saying how much I enjoyed this book.  I mean, it is such an obvious favorite that one might do well to stay away from it and try to experience other less known works.  When I did a presentation on author John Green and told the class that his favorite book was Catcher in the Rye, one of my peers raised his hand and said "Seriously?".  But I think there is a reason, though it may not be an obvious black and white reason, as to why this book has connected with so many readers.  Whether it be the teenage angst voice of the protagonist or the city he encounters, people feel as if this book speaks to them and I must admit...I felt the same way.  Yes, I feel it is safe to say that this book truly spoke to me in more ways than one.
I guess this is the part where I say SPOILERS are ahead.  So, as I read this book I noticed the pattern that the main character, Holden, kept having conversations with people and I couldn't figure out what he was trying to figure out himself.  After finishing the book, I watched a Crash Course episode on YouTube about the book and realized that Holden was trying to find comfort in the idea of growing up.  He tries talking to all kinds of people - the roommate he can't stand, two nuns, an old friend named Sally, a prostitute, and more - and no one seems to hear him.  They constantly say he should keep his voice down and ask him to make sense but he himself can't even make sense.  The only person he wants to talk to is his younger sister, Phoebe, but even confronts him and says that all he does is complain.  Holden wants to know that the world isn't bad once you become an adult. 
I think what makes this book strong is that it is basically calling out all of the "phonies" in the world.  Holden is our lens into the world that is so mixed up in it's values and beliefs and Holden just can't stand it.  Sure he complains all of the time but he has a lot of fair points and valid arguments.  For example, one part of the book that I really loved was when Holden referred back to his friend Jane who he had spent a summer with.  His roommate goes out with her and implies that he did stuff with her upon which Holden keeps wondering if his roommate asked Jane if she remembered playing checkers with him that one summer.  He doesn't want to view her in a sexual way but as the girl who was really good at playing checkers who always kept her pieces in the very back row.
The book is very character driven and focuses much on Holden's inner thoughts and dialogue.  There are some books that I can look back on and honestly tell you that I love them and would read again in a heartbeat.  Then there are books that I love and I feel change my perspective on life and literature or just get me thinking though I don't call them favorites.  This books fit the later.  I loved it but am hesitant to call it a favorite just yet.  Maybe someday though.  There is a whole lot more I want to say but just don't have the time.   All in all - this book is a must read!

RATING: 5 out of 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment