Monday, 20 January 2014

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye
J.D. Salinger

It has taken me a couple of attempts before I finally managed to finish reading J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in The Rye. On my first attempt I only made it a few chapters in before I had to put the book away and accept the fact that is wasn't for me. A few weeks ago however, on one of my many trips to the library, I saw a lonesome copy of Salinger's classic sitting next to the loans machine and was compelled to give The Catcher in the Rye and second chance.

The Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age story told from the perspective of our narrator Holden Caulfield, a rebellious teenager who finds himself repeatedly being expelled from fancy schools filled with "phonies". Addressing the reading directly, Holden telling the story of three days in his life, recounting his last hours at Pencey Prep and how avoided returning home until the news of his expulsion had reached his parents.

Despite trying to give this classic the benefit of a clean slate, I came across the same difficulties reading The Catcher in the Rye as I had a few years earlier. The heavy reliance on colloquialisms and the unlikeable nature of our narrator, who appears to be obnoxious purely for the sake of his own boredom, make it difficult to relate to Holden and creates a huge barrier when first approaching this story.

After struggling through the first few chapters, mainly through my own stubbornness, I gradually became able to overlook Holden's character flaws and found myself increasingly intrigued to discover how he would react to the awkward situations thrown his way. While he remained a very frustrating character, making those around him equally unlikeable, Holden Caulfield became an engaging narrator who captured the arrogant but uncertain teenager perfectly

As I reached the end of The Catcher and the Rye I gradually began to warm to Holden. Although he was still not a likeable character Holden's mannerisms and way of looking at the world reminded me of the struggles that I think most teenagers face as they begin to find their own voice and try to be heard. Having said that, Holden's journey in to adulthood is far cruder than most coming of age stories; perhaps this is why his story is so difficult to relate to.

Although I gradually began to enjoy the narrator I can honestly say that I'm glad the book isn't any longer. Labelling him as essentially an ungrateful and obnoxious teenager, Holden makes it difficult to relate to him in any meaningful way. Although it is interesting to discover how reacts to different people and increasingly difficult situations it becomes pretty clear that his attitude is the main cause for most of his problems. 

While The Catcher in the Rye is definitely worth a read, I wouldn't recommend it too highly. Holden is an intriguing character to follow but unfortunately his story is significantly less interesting than he is. Outside of the handful of bizarre encounters, the majority of this book is rather mundane - made interesting only by the tangential ramblings of the narrator.


Have you read The Catcher in the Rye? Did you find it difficult to relate to Holden Caulfield?

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  1. One of the things I love most about reading is how different peoples' opinions of the same book can be! Catcher In The Rye is one of my favourite, favourite books. In fact I pretty much love everything that Salinger ever wrote and I'm not sure why, I just find the characters really captivating.

    I'm glad you gave it a shot and read the whole way through even though it was a struggle up front!

    Sorcha x Bright Field Notes

    1. I completely agree with you, I love hearing how different people view the same book. I really want to try some more of Salinger's books, I liked his writing style I just didn't get on with the characters in The Catcher in the Rye too well.


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