J.D. Salinger's seminal novel The Catcher In The Rye has been one of those classics that people always mention as one of the books you need to read growing up and at nearly 21, I finally have.
The story follows 16 year old Holden Caulfield. A loner of a character who's just been kicked out of a school, called Pencey, which isn't really a big deal for him - he's been kicked out of quite a few by this point. He's admittedly lazy with no real interest in anything except English and writing, even then it's not enough to keep him there.
We meet him a few days before his imminent departure from the school, when he decides to screw it and return to his home town of New York City before his parents find out he's no longer a Pencey student. Red hunting cap in tow and with some money in his back pocket the novel's structure follows Holden as he meanders around for three days.
And when I say structure, I use this term very loosely.
Yes there is a chronological plot, but Holden's tale veers off into different anecdotal directions. From talking about his family to people he went to school with and his stories that have shaped his viewpoint and opinions about the world.
Holden is essentially an old man in child's body. He's judgemental of people who are 'phonies', yet is deeply hypocritical about nearly everything he talks about, he's consistently showcased as being slightly irritating to those around him, is an accomplished self-confessed liar, and most importantly a lonely person. All this qualities make for something I find quite common in coming of age novels, the 'hipster-I-hate-life-teenager'. He moans...a lot, which arguably makes for a incredibly dislikable character.
Then you realise he's actually writing this as an account of events gone by. Holden is writing about himself in this way, this what he saw himself as when he was 16 years old and post-Pencey, and it's only when you read between the lines that you realise that Holden is still trying to figure out who he is and that's ok for now.
So what's my verdict?
I won't lie to you and say that 'Catcher...' was an easy read, because it wasn't. The language is archaic mid-20th century and Holden's storytelling is disjointed and frustrating at times. Upon reflection, reading comments on GoodReads and watching a couple of discussions of the novel, I've come to realise that Holden is supposed to be frustrating, that's the whole point of him. He is a teenage boy. Simple as. And much like all teenagers, he's a little lost. There's no fairytale ending here, (the closest to one would probably be the scene with his sister Phoebe and the carousel) and there's certainly no complete resolution to his story - which some readers may find unsatisfying.
If anything reading 'Catcher...' aged 20 made me wish I read it as a teenager, I may have felt more empathy for a character who's desperately searching to be heard, caught between acting like an adult and reminiscing on a romanticised version of his childhood/early teens. But it was none the less a fascinating read and I can imagine will only get more complex the more you re-read it!
Those You've Known: Spring Awakening OBC; Comin' Thro The Rye: Marion Anderson; Timshel: Mumford & Sons; Just One Of Those Things: Frank Sinatra; Hurt: Johnny Cash; People Help The People: Birdy
For lovers of...coming of age novels, Salinger's other works and YA classics. Note! I would also recommend watching John Green's analysis on 'Catcher in the Rye' and his 'Catcher...' CrashCourse videos on youtube, if you have already read the novel (part1 & part2 of analysis here! and the start of his Crash Course mini series here)
This review was written by regular reviewer Ria, get to know her here.
*all images (c) Ria Cagampang