The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye is a novel written by J.D Salinger and was published in 1951. This book has been incredibly popular with adults (the author’s originally intended audience) and adolescents. The book has been voted as one of the best English written novels since 1923 and it has been named by Modern Library and its readers as one of the one hundred best English language novels of the Twentieth century? So why don’t I like it??

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For those that have not read the book, I will give you a brief overview.

The novel is written from the point of view of Holden Caulfield. He is telling us about a week in his life several months ago. At the time he was sixteen – he is now seventeen and is currently residing in a mental hospital. When we are first introduced to Holden, he informs us that he has been expelled from his all boys school. This is not the first time he’s been expelled from school. This time it is because he is failing four out of five of his subjects.

The Saturday before Winter vacation starts, Holden decides to leave campus. He knows he can’t go home until Wednesday, that being the day his parents find out he’s been expelled. So he decides to go to New York City and stay in a cheap hotel.

Holden’s time in the city is characterized largely by drunkenness and loneliness. He thinks about the Museum of Natural History, which he often visited as a child. He contrasts his evolving life with the statues of Eskimos in a diorama: while the statues have remained unchanged through the years, he and the world have not. These concerns may have stemmed largely from the death of his brother, Allie.

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He considers hitchhiking out west and building a cabin away from everyone he knows. At one point, he propositions an ex-girlfriend to join him on the trip even though he does not particularly like her. She declines his offer, suggesting
that it is impractical. This angers Holden and he then turns on Sally, telling her exactly what he thinks about her.

That night he decides to return to his family’s home to secretly meet with his beloved younger sister, Phoebe. After escaping detection by his parents, he visits an ex-teacher of his, Mr. Antolini, who imparts some advice before bidding him stay the night. Mr. Antolini tells Holden that it is the mark of the mature man to live humbly for a cause, rather than die nobly for it. This is at odds with Holden’s ideas of becoming a “catcher in the rye,” symbolically saving children from the evils of adulthood.

However Holden is awakened by Mr. Antolini patting his head, which Holden perceives as a homosexual pass at him, so he leaves and stays the night on a bench at Grand Central. A few hours later, Holden wonders if he misinterpreted his teacher’s actions. The next day he decides to leave New York and journey west, only pausing to see his sister one last time.

Phoebe brings a packed suitcase to their meeting place, insisting that she is going to leave with him. He angrily refuses,at which point she cries and refuses to speak to him. Knowing that she will follow him, Holden walks to the zoo, letting her anger dissipate. Phoebe starts talking to Holden again, and Holden promises to forget about his plan to run away and return home when they leave the zoo. He buys her a ticket for the carousel in the park and watches her ride an old horse on it. As Holden watches her ride the carousel, his own mood lifts. Soon he is nearly moved to tears with remorse, longing, and bittersweet happiness.

At the end of his narration, Holden explains that he will be going to another school in the fall again but does not know for sure if he will start applying himself.

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My issues are mainly with the character of Holden. I hate the way he comes across in the book. In my opinion, he’s very obnoxious, arrogant and takes things for granted.

At one point he discusses how since his brother died, his mother is not as strong as she use to be and he knows that his being expelled will have quite a big effect on her. If he knows this, then why doesn’t he try harder? It’s just plain selfishness, the only person he’s thinking about is himself.

I appreciate the fact that losing a loved one is a difficult thing to go through, but Holden is only really thinking about how it affects him and not the rest of his family.

Holden makes it clear that his family have a fair bit of money and he seems to abuse this. Again this is my opinion, but from my interpretation of the book, he is basically acting up, doing whatever he wants. He doesn’t care that he’s been kicked out of school, again. He knows that his parents can get him in somewhere else, after all they’ve got money. It feels like he’s taking advantage of the fact that he can do whatever he wants.

Holden doesn’t have to work for it, he doesn’t have to struggle like others do. This greatly annoys me. For someone who has always had to work for what they want, reading about a sixteen year old that doesn’t care about anything and can get anything he wants, well it really pisses me off.

I don’t think I will ever understand why this book is so popular. Whenever I read it (I’ve read it twice now, once when I was fifteen and again aged twenty, so I did give it another chance!) I just get angry and annoyed at Holden. For those that enjoy it, that’s great, but for me it will never be a classic.

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