Book Review of “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

There are authors that become famous after writing dozens of novels (Stephen King, just to name one), and authors that become legends in spite of having written very few. J.D. Salinger belongs to the second category and his most famous work, The Catcher in the Rye has been and still is a compulsory reading in schools worldwide.

We’ve all felt rebellious when we were teenagers and for some reason or another, rebelliousness is sexy and dangerous. However, few of us were as rebellious and against-it-all as the protagonist of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield.

What’s It About?

Holden Caulfield is a troubled young man that is most probably treated for a mental condition is some sort of sanitarium (even though there’s no overt mention of an asylum).

He’s just been expelled from school and has failed multiple other schools with lousy grades. After he has an altercation with his roommate, who is dating the girl that he likes, he decides to leave for New York, where he gets himself accommodated at the Edmont Hotel.

After being carpet-bombed with sexual imagery from neighboring rooms, he decides that he ought to get company. He goes to the Lavender Room, which is basically the hotel’s club and starts to flirt with women that are much older than him and he even gets involved with a prostitute in his room, although he does not go farther than talking to her and indulging into her generally dirty talk.

Alone, desperate and conflicted, he meets with Sally Hayes, a girl he used to date, and with Carl Luce, one of his old friends, who accuses him of being immature. Holden gets drunk and wanders through New York, but the bitter cold finally gets the best of him and he decides that he will go home, after all, at his parent’s house, even though Christmas Break had not yet begun.

He tries to secretly enter the apartment, but he stumbles upon Phoebe, his sister. She chides him for not liking anything (for being a hater, in more modern terms). When his parents arrive home from town, he sneaks out of the apartment and seeks shelter at Antolini, who used to be his English teacher, but leaves from there, too, after mistakes one of Antolini’s gestures as a sexual advance. He tells Phoebe that he plans on leaving “for good” and Phoebe insists that he takes her with him. However, he doesn’t leave either, after waking up as if he were in a trance.

OK, What’s It About Now?

The Cather in the Rye portrays a conflicted young man that is simultaneously afraid of adulthood and intrigued by it. He revolves between growing up and taking upon what adulthood has to offer (sex, primarily) and remaining an eternal child.

He is extremely ballistic against all things that pertain to adulthood, but most of all the attitude of the adults, which are, in his view, “phonies”. This might ring some bells in your head and remind you of that movie you’ve watched years ago: “Rebel without a cause”, which features some really similar themes.

Ironically, the novel ends up with a mature Caulfield that realizes that he had been sick and that he was still sick, but he’s optimistic about the new school he’s going to attend on the onset of autumn. We are not told how Caulfield ends up precisely, but we can kind of get a sense of that from the abrupt ending.

The Catcher in the Rye is a truly fascinating book that won’t bore you out even for a second, so we advise you get it.

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