J. D. Salinger - Catcher in the Rye

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Brilliant Writing + Character Development - Background; an equation that equal mediocrity

Jan 28, 2010 (Updated Feb 12, 2010)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Imagery, Dialogue, Character Development, Emotional Appeal, and Variety

Cons:Lack of background and justification for character choices

The Bottom Line: Its a example of literary excellence, but the insufficient explanations for characters actions only achieves mediocrity in my mind.


A memory is a vivid recollection of events in the course of one's life. Describing your own memories takes skill to do well.  J. D. Salinger does a good job in Catcher in the Rye at describing a sequence of events that Holden Caulfield experiences. This book is a narrative of Holden’s life as he leaves school to explore the real life world of New York City. Salinger describes Holden's surroundsing very vividly so through the dialogue and thoughts of Holden the book becomes a journey that you take along with Holden. This involvement is a true emotional connection between the reader and the story which gives the content of a novel an increased face value. The spectrum of situations Holden is exposed to is vast, which is impressive since they all make sense within the story. From hookers to nuns, the story mis consistent. However, though the story is a narrative of Holden's life over a period of time, I got lost in the grand scheme of things. I was lost in the motivation of the characters to act in the way that they do. The background provided was not sufficient to justify the actions that the characters chose. I enjoyed the story but it didn't leave a meaningful impact with me due to its lack of explanation. The quality writing lacked structure so I feel that Catcher in the Rye is mediocre.
 
VIVID DESCRIPTION:

The imagery in this novel is supreme, Holden’s descriptions of the world around him and what he’s thinking is a masterful execution of imagery by Salinger, when Holden 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." You can really picture what he’s talking about so it makes understanding his thoughts and interpretations quite easy, which makes the story an experience rather than just words on a page. Holden tells it how it is and the straightforward attitude is helpful to understand what is going on. Salinger really shows literary prowess through Holden’s dialogue, brilliant work.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT:

Through the course of the novel, we are told about the different life experiences of Holden as he leaves school and attacks the wild city of New York. Salinger bounces forth between different extremes which gives the novel depth. From run-ins with acquaintances like Sunny the prostitute to meeting up with his sister he hasn’t seen in a while, all levels of friendship are included, close and distant. This contrast between old and new friends shows how Holden acts when he meets someone for the first time and when he knows the person well. Holden’s character is developed by the observation of how he acts. The morals of the people he meets also vary. Holden has a confrontation with Maurice the pimp who wants to beat him up as well as a delightful conversation with some nuns; the contrast that n these characters offer give Holden exposure to good and evil. Through the presentation of both sides, Holden's position on the spectrum is revealed. 

LACK OF BACKGROUND:

Background exists for the characters in the story and the events that go on. However, the explanation is limited and doesn't fulfil the demands of logic. The structure of reasoning is weak on basic levels so the more advanced layers can't stand. Crumbling at the foundation, there is no hope for any higher level concepts to stand.

In conclusion, Catcher in the Rye is a poorly structured story written with excellent writing. Salinger was wonderful in his description of environments, exposing Holden to a variety of conditions to develop him as a character. However, at the point iwhere there is only a shallow background, what is the reason for reading it? This story has literary merit, but for those who want a deeply involved plot and justification for action, stay away from this novel that lacks structure. I respect the excellent writing of Salinger, but the lack of background prevents me from finding the appeal of this novel.


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