Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
I can’t explain this book better than this thread.
Highlights from the reddit thread
- For me, Catcher in the Rye is masterful representation of a specific time and age and condition. Compared to other stories that attempt to tackle the same material it is like a hyper realistic oil painting that looks like real life compared to other stories that are more like a soft watercolor drawing that is only vaguely representative of its subject. It portrays an age and a mindset and paints that picture better than most. Perspective is important when trying to appreciate a painting or a good book. Too close and you may get distracted by the brush strokes. Too far away and you miss the details that make it great.
- What it boiled down to was that Salinger wrote Holden in such a way that every time you read the book, especially if a few years have gone by in between, you’ll see Holden in a completely new light. A lot of people read this book in their mid-teens and identify with Holden because he is lost, lonely, struggling to find himself in a big city, and dealing with plenty of teenage angst. People found that when they read the book again in their 20’s, they couldn’t stand Holden because he is whiny and often pathetic. The feeling was that he just needed to get over himself and stop waiting for someone to fix all of his problems. Then, as I myself did, people read the book as they became parents or were older and found that they sympathized with Holden. As a parent, I was heartbroken. Holden was lost, he felt disowned by his family and he was struggling to find his identity in a world that seemed to swallow him whole. He desperately wants his sister to avoid the same problems. For me it roused my paternal instinct to protect him and help him find his way in the world.
- Well, he says it all the time. He hates phonies. What does that mean? If you examine what he says he hates throughout the book, you’ll realize he hates pretentiousness; he hates, for example, that D.B. is “prostituting himself” in Hollywood; he hates the kind of self-centered, self-important society that he is about to enter, by virtue of growing up. He craves all those qualities that he finds so genuinely and so spontaneously in children, like Phoebe: generosity, innocence, kindness. He himself is caught between the two worlds, and he hates that. And so he’s whiny and sarcastic, and dreams that he could forever remain on the threshold of the grown up world, being the catcher in the rye, saving children from falling of the cliff - saving them from losing their innocence.
- The Catcher in the Rye is really a kind of lament for the lost innocence of childhood, and about the disconnect those who exalt it, like Holden and presumably Salinger, experience when they enter a world that is so decidedly self-interested. But whatever your reason for feeling alone and isolated from the rest of the society, you can find a kind of universality in Holden. He’s an outcast, a self-pariah, like so many others, and weirdly, wonderfully, this makes him part of a group; and so perhaps, like the Catcher in the Rye’s optimistic ending is possibly meant to indicate, being an outcast is just a transient state of existence after all.
Next - To Kill a Mockingbird
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