Rating: 5 out of 5
Since I only have two days left of this semester, and only one more semester before I receive my Master’s this spring, I reflect quite a bit on what it’s like to be a young adult in the 21st century. Between the juxtaposition of this dismal economy and the over-indulgent, entitled Millennial generation, lies a disillusioned feeling of angst. And nobody represents angst like The Catcher in the Rye’s protagonist Holden Caulfield.
Written by J.D. Salinger in 1951, the novel describes Holden’s coming-of-age story as he gets expelled from school and runs away from Pennsylvania to New York. He drinks heavily and has an altercation with a prostitute and her pimp, but eventually meets up with his younger sister Phoebe and takes her to the Central Park Zoo. Although he visits other people, such as his ex-girlfriend Sally and his English teacher Mr. Antolini, it’s with Phoebe that he opens his heart up the most.
The meaning behind the title has to do with Holden mishearing a poem called “Comin’ Through the Rye.” He imagines himself as the guardian of a bunch of kids running around in a rye field next to a cliff. It’s his job to catch the children before they fall–an apt metaphor for Holden’s desire to save children from losing their innocence, like he did.
This novel is now revered as a masterpiece, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not surrounded by controversy. Because of all of the smoking, drinking, cursing, and whoring Holden does, the book continues to be censored in schools around the world. Many murderers, including Mark David Chapman who assassinated John Lennon, have claimed a personal connection to Holden.
However, what’s more important is that everyone can relate to Holden at some point in their lives, because who hasn’t felt lost, lonely, and frustrated with all the ‘phoniness’ around them? Sure, he exhibits destructive behavior, but all his experiences allow him to evolve as a human being.
So whether you’re going through your quarter-life crisis like I am, wondering what the hell you’re going to do with the rest of your life after graduation, or you’re just sick of this fame-whoring reality TV culture, you’ll find a friend in Holden Caulfield.
I haven’t meant anyone who didn’t love this novel, and I recommend absolutely anything written by Salinger. If you don’t know what all the fuss is about, then pick The Catcher in the Rye up immediately and join the conversation!
Favorite Quotes: “I was half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s the thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are. Girls. Jesus Christ. They can drive you crazy. They really can.” (Ch. 10)
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.” (Ch. 24)