Catcher In The Rye

url“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused  and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that  score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records  of their troubles. You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

You know how good it feels when you just pick up a book with absolutely no high expectations but it turns out exactly what you needed to read to not feel alone. This is that book. No fantasy, no big dragons and wise wizards, nothing about any star crossed lovers, nothing about civil wars or fights against rascism, no murder mystery or thriller. Just a 16-year-old boy narrating a couple of days of his life after he’s expelled from his school. I probably wouldn’t have picked this book up if I had known what it is about. I’m SO glad I didn’t.

523d43599af7aeac69bdf5f2538bf101There’s this thing about this book, that you either identify with it, or you don’t. There’s no in between. And that’s why a lot of people think that this book is another one of those young adult novels about a whiny teenager who rants about how he hates literally everything and everyone around him. And then there are other kind of people who can relate to it and I’m one of them. Because honestly, we’ve all been through that phase, that period of alienation and estrangement in our adolescent years when so much as our routine life depressed us and broke us down. And we still go through those emotions once in a while. It’s really surprising how you could feel so close to a book which was written 63 years ago. But then again, human emotions never change whether it’s decades ago or centuries.

18dbf47906d7aa00bfb6f8c47439ce68Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of this book, isn’t an exceptional A grade student, or a child prodigy or a sports star of his school. He’s just a below average student who flunks all of his subjects except English, but that doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent. He’s always curious for knowledge he finds interesting. He thinks that adults are all pretentious and despises this world for being so phony and fake. All he really likes is reading books and going to the museum. A few pages into this book and you would realize what kind of person he is. He loathes everything. He’s aimless. He’s angry. He’s devastated. He’s frustrated. He’s depressed. He doesn’t have anywhere to go, not even his own home. But among all of this, there’s one person he really cares about. And that’s his little sister, whose childhood innocence is real and honest, unlike everything else. And he wants nothing more than saving her from this corrupted, hollow, hypocritical world. After all, this is all this book is about. Saving childhood innocence. This boy is not an adult yet, but he’s mature enough to understand what most adult people are like. And he doesn’t want his sister or any other children in general to be exposed to that world of phoniness. And this is what the title actually means. As he says…

Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.

So seriously troubled and distressed this boy is, that I desperately wanted to read a happy ending for him.  I needed to know that he finds a way in the end, that he somehow fits in somewhere. That he finds answers to all his troubles. That if life looks so bad at the moment, it doesn’t mean that it’ll not get better. To know that everything becomes okay in the end. But this book doesn’t have that end. It just ends on the same frustrated note with which it starts, probably J.D. Salinger’s way to tell the readers who relate to Holden to find their own ending. To find their own way. To find their own answers.
I would just say that if you have ever, ever in your life, felt like a misfit and have had that feeling of alienation from the rest of the world, this book is for you.

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11 thoughts on “Catcher In The Rye

  1. I loved this book when I read it after it was recommended to me by my bf as the book he really identified with as a teenager. I loved it, but, I didn’t quite identify with it… in fact, a lot of the time I found myself wholly disagreeing with Holden’s thoughts/reactions. And I wasn’t far off being a teen then (20?), so I don’t think that was it. I think it was a gender thing, at least for me. It reminded me of reading The Bell Jar (when I was 18) and really relating to it, really feeling connected. I wonder if this is a gender thing (taking into account how girls/boys are treated and taught growing up) or if it is something more unique than that?

    Have you read The Bell Jar? If so, did you relate to it as much as you did to The Catcher in the Rye?

    Also, to wind up a hella long comment, have you read Franny and Zooey, and Nine Stories? I hopelessly fell in love with those… 🙂

    • Hi there! First of all, thanks for commenting and letting me know your opinion on this book.
      Secondly, yes I agree with you. There were some parts where I thought boys are more likely to connect with it than girls. But I don’t think that it was wholly a gender thing. It could be a contributing factor in some parts though. Because for me, I could relate to it, irrespective of my gender, just as a human being. His anger towards everything which came from nowhere, how he often thought about his deceased brother and classmate, despite of them being long gone, how he was only particularly interested in English and history, how talking to his sister was the only thing he found solace in, even though she was just a kid, how he said he could read a child’s notebook all day long without getting bored, how badly he wanted to hold on to childhood innocence and, how he hated change and how he was so nostalgic about things as little as that song on carousel. I connected with all these little things and probably more which I’m forgetting right now. So over all, I thought it was great. And I’m glad that even though you didn’t relate to it much on your personal level, you still found it interesting and loved it.

      About those books you mentioned, no I haven’t read any of those but if you’re saying that they’re all just as good as this one, then I’ll try to get my hands on them as soon as possible. 😀

      • Well that’s really interesting! Thanks for the response 🙂 And yes, Nine Stories and Franny & Zooey are Salinger as well, so you’ll likely like the style and they are just great overall.

          • Hey, quick question! How did you find my Pesce Cambridge blog? I’m wondering as I thought I’d linked my profile to my book review blog (www.thelittlecrocodile.com) but people keep showing up on the other one! Thanks

          • I never found your Pesce Cambridge blog. I only just looked it up when you mentioned it. Did I really show up there? Because I’m not sure how that’s possible. I only checked out your little crocodile blog before because this is the one which is showing up here, not the other one.

          • Oh I just noticed that I’m following your other blog. Maybe when I followed your crocodile one, I automatically followed you on there too. I don’t know how, though.

          • Oh and also, your crocodile blog isn’t showing on my ‘blogs I follow’ list. And now there’s no follow button there too. So probably when I clicked that follow button on your crocodile blog earlier, I followed your pesky blog. And now there’s no way for me to follow your little croc one. Woah so confusing!

  2. Pingback: The Bell Jar |

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