Do you ever get the feeling when you’re big fan of something, that if no one else notices it, their lives are incomplete? That is the way I feel about The Catcher in the Rye. It is a beautiful book and I want you to read it.
I came upon this gem rather reluctantly. My parents were really irritating about the whole ordeal: “You have to read Catcher in the Rye!” “Okay, can I read it now?” “No, you’re not old enough yet.” I didn’t understand. Catcher is not, unfortunately for some of you, completely about sex, drugs, and rock & roll (although they are mentioned more than once), but instead the coming of age story of the most notable hero of American literature.
Coming of age stories are boring, and cliché, I know. This, however, is the coming of age story of ALL coming of age stories.
Holden Caulfield is wise, an old soul, crush-worthy, immature, and ironic all at the same time. He curses too much, makes slang poetic, and has been banned in schools across the nation. And as if this wasn’t enough, he has the greatest hat ever. That is quite a feat.
The novel follows him through his dropping out of school, and his escapades through 1950s New York City. It sounds innocent enough, nothing spectacular, and kind of like The Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. What is important to note however, is the stain of rebellion in Catcher’s pages, and Holden’s ability to be the spokesman for every teenager (even 60 years after his tale’s publication).
If Holden Caulfield is my crush, John Salinger (the author) is my hero. With one work of art he managed to create a whole genre of literature (one that both Perks of Being a Wallflower and It’s Kind of a Funny Story fall under) and cause major controversy. His words are so well placed, every sentence has meaning, and Holden is so well characterized that people never talk about Salinger’s voice in The Catcher in The Rye, but instead only notice Holden’s. As Caulfield discusses the ‘phonies’ around him and his subliminal fear of adulthood, he provides a prescription for generations of struggling adolescents – of those fighting to belong and to be individual all at the same time. This is why my parents asked me to read this book when I was a teenager, and not earlier. I wasn’t meant only to understand, but I was meant to relate (as I hope you will when I convince you to read it). Since we know that English class has the tendency to ruin good books, read it before it is required. It’s short, written in easy language, and super absorbing.
I can’t guarantee you will love this book, but you will have a strong opinion about it. Maybe you’ll be inclined to read it every few years and watch as your take on it changes. If you are the one who never reads, you can still empathize with Holden, and if you’re an avid reader, you can also appreciate the beauty of such a well-crafted work of genius.
Just a note, mainly to sophomores and upperclassmen: If you like A Separate Peace, you will love Catcher. And if you hate A Separate Peace, you will also love Catcher.
“”The boy himself is too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story.” -John Salinger (the inside cover of The Catcher in the Rye)