Forgive me if this post seems a little…phony. Apparently, since I’m an adult it can’t be helped. Or so says Holden Caulfield, teenage wise guy extraordinaire. Did you ever wish as a child that you would never grow up? I know I did. I thought life was as close to perfect as it was going to get and any change could only be bad.
Holden is experiencing this fear of change, too, but on a grander scale. He’s lost his little brother to cancer, a friend has committed suicide and he’s failing school. He is growing up and can’t put adulthood off much longer. Life is sucking. This is where we find Holden when the book opens.
While Holden thinks that nobody understands him countless readers have identified with him throughout the book’s life. The first time I read The Cather in the Rye I disliked it. It was hard for me to feel sorry for a spoiled rich boy who can’t seem to think of anyone but himself. On my second read, I was surprised to find how funny and perceptive Holden is. Granted, his views are tainted with teenage angst and attitude. But much of what Holden perceives as “phony” does warrant criticism. The problem is, Holden has trouble seeing his own phoniness.
The Cather in the Rye brings mortality to the present. Death is always in the future tense (especially for teens) - I will die...in a distant future so far I never need to think about it. However, death is always around us and cares not for time frames. The good news is death tends to leave life in it’s wake. When you’re grieving, though, the circle-of-life kind of theorizing doesn’t help much. For many survivors who have lost loved ones, life can feel phony.
What Holden experiences is far from phony. Perhaps Holden is not typical, but certainly his experiences with friends, teachers, parents, sexuality and death have an undercurrent of truth which reflect many reader’s feelings.
Publisher: Little, Brown, 2001 Pages: 277
Rating: 3.5 Stars Source: IC Public Library