I don’t usually read classics. I’m not sure why. For some reason, classics are totally different to other books and scare me off. So when I was assigned to read this for school, I was a bit skeptical. After all, it is one of the ‘great American classics.’ The thing is, though, I ended up really, really loving it. It’s now one of my favourite books of all time.
To explain the plot is quite hard because there isn’t really a plot at all. The Catcher in the Rye is very character driven, almost entirely character driven. We get hints of a core plot running through the entire novel, but, even at the end, and after thinking very hard, I’m still not entirely sure of the plot. I think you just need to pick it up and read for yourself.
Our protagonist is Holden Caulfield. At the start of the novel we find out he has been kicked out of his fourth school, Pencey Prep. After a string of events meaning Holden leaves Pencey days before he is supposed to, he finds himself in New York.
The Catcher in the Rye is a story of adolescence and identity. Holden often talks of adults being ‘phonies’ and has a very childlike mind. Throughout the novel we get the idea that Holden is grasping onto the last threads of his childhood whilst coming to terms with his impending adulthood. It’s such a difficult time and age is something that is mentioned a lot during the novel, whether it’s Holden being told he’s too young to drink in a bar, or calling someone ‘old.’ The contrast between young and old is striking and I think it’s very interesting to think about.
Another major theme is acceptance. Through his actions, it is clear that Holden is seeking the acceptance and attention he so needs. It’s as if he needs the bridge between childhood and adulthood to be acknowledged.
Holden is such an interesting and inspiring character. I felt as if I understood him to such a great extent and his words were so thought provoking. Salinger has created a character that is the epitome of teenage thoughts and feelings. Teenage years are full of discovering who you are, and Holden’s journey was all about discovering himself. I really wanted to give him a big hug.
The Catcher in the Rye isn’t the right book for everyone, but you won’t know until you try it out.