Friday, January 14, 2011

Review: The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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 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


  1. When I first read Catcher as an insufferable teenager, I didn't much cotton to it. Oddly enough, I think as an adult reader I would have more sympathy for Holden. thanks for the review, which I enjoyed reading.

  2. You know I read this book a long long time ago, and like ATCF, I don't think I was in a position to get it. It's on my list only a book 1/2 away. I'm looking forward to it.

    I'll come back and re-read your review when I'm done too!

  3. I was a teenager when I read Catcher for the first time, too. Maybe time and perspective helped.

    Thanks for the comments. And Laura, I'm looking forward to your thoughts!

  4. I read this for the first time this fall and I really enjoyed it even though everyone told me it wasn't that great. I think reading it as an adult with my teen angst in the past allowed me to see why Holden acted the way he did. I'm actually really glad I waited until twenty to read it!