In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, a young man named Holden Caulfield goes through many misadventures during a three day stay in New York. Holden acts like a careless teenager but the reader gets the feeling that he cared once and wishes that he could again. He has what is almost an obsession with death and is constantly dwelling on the death of his brother Allie, who died of leukemia. He carries Allie’s baseball mitt with him wherever he goes. He was obviously very disturbed by Allie’s death as he broke all the windows in his garage with his bare fist with such force that his hand is still messed up. His feelings toward people and relationships tend to lean toward the negative side. He usually expects the worst, part of that seems to be issues he has from the loss of his brother Allie. One of the words he uses often throughout the novel is phony. He values honesty and sincerity, and can’t stand people who try to make themselves look better in the eyes of others. He flunks out of every school that his parents send him to including Pency, his current school. He seems to be fairly intelligent and the reader gets a sense that his problems in school are the result of lack of motivation. He isolates himself from those around him and seems to be afraid of change; always assuming it will be for the worst. He seems to have a great deal of love and respect for his sister Phoebe and his dead brother Allie. Holden is a very complex character and is difficult to understand.
The story begins on top of a hill overlooking the football stadium at Pency. Holden stands alone on top of the hill watching the game because he didn’t want to go down into the stadium with everybody else. This is a good beginning as it shows Holden’s tendency to isolate himself from others and his general dislike of people. He has flunked out of Pency, and is not supposed to return after Christmas vacation. Christmas vacation starts in three days but Holden gets fed up with his classmates and school in general and leaves to go to New York and get a hotel room. He doesn’t go home because he wants his parents to get the letter informing them of his expulsion before he comes home. He takes a train to New York and when he gets there checks into a “crumby” hotel. He spends a few days on his own going t various places that he used to frequent including a museum. He really enjoys going to the museum because it never changes and it gives him a feeling of consistency that he finds security in. He visits many of his old acquaintances incuding an old teacher, and Sally Hayes who is a girl he use to date. Part of the time he spends with his sister doing various things such as watching her ride a carousel and just hanging out. It doesn’t say anything about the events after he returns to his home, but the three days he spends on his own where obviously a life changing experience, though possibly not for the better. In the end he is placed in some sort of mental institution which is where he is telling the story from..
The first person narration was very important in this novel. It gives the reader more insight into who Holden is and what he feels and thinks. It is a well-written book and very interesting. It was not hard to read but understanding the underlying meaning took some thought. Holden was constantly in a search for love and happiness, which makes it easy for the reader to relate to what he is going through, as we are all searching for happiness.
I thought it was an excellent book and it is definitely good that they make you read it in English (Don’t they?), as it is one of the closest things to a life-changing book that I have ever read. It was a bit depressing but there was an underlying sense of better things to come. I would definitely recommend this