J. D. Salinger - Catcher in the Rye

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Phonies really do suck...

Dec 20, 2002 (Updated Jan 20, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Holden Caulfied (the main character) and the New York setting

Cons:Unclear Plot

The Bottom Line: If you are a distressed teen, read The Catcher in the Rye.


Are you a depressed teenager that has no clue what you want to do with your life? Are you sick of all the phonies in our society pretending to be who they really aren’t? Don’t you wish you could live in a world where things run the way you want them to? If any of these questions apply to you, I advise you to get your butt away from this radiating computer screen this instant, run to the local bookstore, and pick up a copy of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

Book Info

Title: The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Pages: 277
Copyright Renewed 1979
ISBN 0-316-76917-7
Cost: $13.95

What are the characters like?

Holden Caulfield is the main character of the classic book, The Catcher in the Rye. Holden is a sixteen year old male who has a laundry list full of problems… The biggest of these problems? He’s been kicked out of prep school because of lousy grades. But the thing is, this isn’t the first time… He’s been kicked out of several other schools for the same reason as well. Another issue Holden deals with a lot is depression. Whenever he is alone or thinks about people he doesn’t care for (he uses the term phony to describe such people), he seems to fill up with anger and then release that anger by becoming depressed. Mr. Caulfield is without a doubt a pessimist, meaning he normally always tends to look at the downsides or certain flaws that people might have.

Does Holden like anybody?? From what I’ve already described to you, you’re probably thinking that the answer is no, but that’s not really the case. Holden seems to be especially partial to his younger (I believe she’s ten years old), red-headed sister, Phoebe. Phoebe is Holden’s favorite relative (excluding his deceased brother Allie, who died from Leukemia a few years ago) for a few reasons—she’s easy to talk to and she’s fun to be around. Holden is so fond of this young girl that he’s willing to go spend the little money that he has to go buy his little sister a record (which ends up breaking on his way back home). Holden’s parents have been nervous ever since Allie’s death and are afraid of what the future holds for Holden; therefore, Holden hasn’t and probably never will have a great, loving, hug-and-kiss type of relationship with his parents.

Let’s talk about sex. Holden is what I guess you could call sexually frustrated. He is still a virgin, though he has come close to doing it before, but something always happens at the wrong time (sometimes parents walk in right before they “get it on”… the usual). He only feels horny (they use the word sexy as a replacement) when his mind is cleared from all other troubles that possess his mind. For example, if Holden has a girl over and he feels depressed or exhausted, that girl ain’t going to be getting anything that night. Mr. Caulfield does not really have a taste for those who claim to have lots and lots of sex and have maybe done it twice. And that brings us to phonies…

Holden absolutely hates phonies. Phonies are people who pretend to be who they are really not (it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that one!). A phony can be anyone—a student, a teacher, celebrities, hookers, or just the crowd in general (these are all examples found throughout the book). So if there was one thing you could do to impress Holden Caulfield, being yourself would definitely be impressive to this young adult.

Setting

The Catcher in the Rye begins at Pencey Prep School in central Pennsylvania, but the majority of the story takes place in New York City. Overall, I think Mr. Salinger did a fair job on the setting… not bad, but it wasn’t spectacular, either. From seeing many NYC pics over the years (for some reason I love looking at pics of the Big Apple), I already had a pretty good idea of what NYC looks like. People who don’t know a lot of about the largest city in the U.S. (which is probably very few) would probably get the image of a big city with lots of buildings and all… But I don’t think they would get a perfectly vivid and graphic description by reading this book.

We the reader get to travel all over NYC in The Catcher in the Rye. Holden travels all over the place… from Grand Central Station to Central Park to The Museum of Natural History to Greenwich Village. Holden vaguely tells us what things look like and describes to us what the environment is like (which for the most part he describes as freezing and filthy).

Plot

The plot of The Catcher in the Rye is not really well-developed. Holden is telling us the story of what happened to him last year before Christmas, and the story goes like this… Holden Caulfield is being expelled from Pencey Prep School, yet his parents are not aware of this. Holden’s parents won’t get the letter of expulsion for a few days, but after getting in a fight with his roommate, Holden decides to leave Pencey that very night. Holden really has no where to go, so he musters up all the money he can and hops on a train headed to New York City (Holden’s family lives in NYC.).

When Holden finally arrives in the Big Apple, he decides to stay in a cheap hotel in order save money. Little does he know that his hotel is full of morons and perverts. Anyway, the whole story consists of Holden meeting all sorts of people in order to spend time until his parents get the letter saying that Holden is expelled. On Holden’s journey, we get to see his experiences with two nuns, a hooker, cab drivers, Sally Hayes (a girl he used to know), Mr. Antolini (his English teacher), Carl Luce (a sort of friend), and even his kid-sister Phoebe. *SPOILER ALERT* Do not read ahead if you have not yet read the book. But the thing that was strange to me was that the book didn’t describe Holden’s encounter with his parents! Isn’t that one of the main thing the books about? And I also wanted to see if Holden was ever gonna turn his life around… but the reader never gets to find out. :-(

So the basic plot is that Holden is leaving his old school and decides to take a trip to NYC where he gets to meet lots of different people.

What were my thoughts on the book?

First, let me tell you about the writing style. Salinger’s writing style is written in a teenage fashion, meaning he uses words that teenagers would use… except the text is written with words that teenagers in the 1950’s used, but it’s still easy to read and would definitely appeal to teenagers today. For example, instead of using the word gay or homosexual, Salinger uses the word flitty as a replacement. At first I didn’t know what that word meant, but after seeing the word a few times and reading the context around the word, the meaning of flitty finally came clear to me. While I’m talking to you about the language in The Catcher in the Rye, let me tell you about the use of cussing and swearing. The words hell, sonuvabitch, goddam, bastard, and the word f-uck are used a lot in the book. If any of these words offend you, I would advise you not to read The Catcher in the Rye. Practically every other sentence in the book has at least one of the words I mentioned above.

The font size in The Catcher in the Rye is around a 9 and the margins are fairly large; they both cause the book to go by very quickly.

What did I like about The Catcher in the Rye? The character development was great. Throughout the book, we really get to know Holden’s personality (what his likes and dislikes are, etc.) and his behavior to other people. I liked how the book was really down to earth, meaning that the book dealt with issues that pretty much all teenagers (and maybe some adults) could relate to—depression, anger, sociability, sex, alcohol, and relationships with parents.

I liked how the setting was in New York (New York City seems to fascinate me for some silly reason), even though the author didn’t do a superb job on describing NYC… but then again, it wasn’t bad either.

What could I change about The Catcher in the Rye? If I could change one thing about this book, I would probably make the plot of the book a lot clearer. Sure it was fun getting to see Holden meeting all those cool (and some not so cool) people, but what’s the point? We the reader (or at least me) didn’t really get to read about what we expected to read about…

But that’s pretty much the only element of the story that I wasn’t too fond of.

Is there a theme in The Catcher in the Rye? Uhh… let me think. I guess I could think of maybe two themes that readers could get from the story. Theme 1: Stay in school if you wanna be cool. Getting kicked out of schools and not returning to one will get you absolutely no where in life. Theme 2: Even though as hard as it might be, try to always be yourself instead of always following the crowd. Try hard to be who you are and not be somebody else. Nobody likes a phony.

Cover Art: My copy of The Catcher in the Rye is a paperback version with a red horse and a small little sketch of what I think is supposed to be Central Park with a few skyscrapers in the background (The cover art on the back side of the book is the exact same as the front.). The horse represents the horse on which Phoebe rides on a Merry-Go-Round and the park just describes the setting. Both the images look like they were hand-sketched. I’m fine with the little sketch of central park, but what was the purpose of the Merry-Go-Round horse on the front cover? At least put something important to the story (like a picture of Holden or something) on the front cover instead of something that has little or no significance to the story.

About the Author

J.D. Salinger was born in Manhattan in the year of 1919. Before he started writing, Salinger attended Valley Forge Military Academy, fought in World War II, and participated in D-Day and the invasion of Normandy. He then attended Columbia University and started pursuing the writing business. Later he finally published his best known piece of literature, The Catcher in the Rye.

Interested in J.D. Salinger? If you are, be sure to visit some of the following websites!

www.rkpuma.com/catcher.htm

www.levity.com/corduroy/salinger.htm

Final Thoughts

Would I recommend The Catcher in the Rye? Definitely. The story would definitely appeal to teenagers (especially teenage boys), and I think that every teen should at least be exposed to this book. Kids below the age of 14 probably shouldn’t read the story because of all the concepts (sex, language, depression, etc.), but those who can understand the story will probably enjoy it.

Did it sound like I put this book down a little in my review? If it has, it’s really not as bad as it might seem. The only aspect of the book I didn't like was the unclear plot, but that’s pretty much it. I’m sure you’ll like the characters and all the adventures Holden takes part in, so don't worry.

So if you are a teenager who thinks that you are the only one with lots of problems…... Guess again, there’s lots of others, and be sure to read about the one featured in The Catcher in the Rye.

Thanks for reading.


Recommend this product? Yes

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