Book Review: The Catcher In the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye is a coming-of-age tale that transcends typical adolescent realistic fiction by offering a more complicated and profound view on life. Though I did end up enjoying this book, my first complaint lies with the very first sentence. “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of ****, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” This introduction certainly is engaging, makes readers ask questions, and gives them an immediate glimpse into Holden’s personality; but it is also pessimistic, a run-on sentence, and can be extremely insulting to David Copperfield (which is actually a superb book).

The moment I began reading, I wondered when the title ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ would come in play, and what it would mean. The answer, which came in chapter 22, represents Holden’s desire to save innocent children from the ugliness and ‘phoniness’ of the real world. I thought this was admirable, eye-opening, and profound, and was communicated very well, especially through the numerous metaphors shrouding hidden morals that also gave readers insight into Holden’s mind.

Holden Caulfield, in my opinion, is a largely misunderstood character. I think readers need to enter this novel with an open mind, because if not, all they will see is an overly judgemental, somewhat immature, and rather privileged teenager who is looking for reasons to complain about the world. However, Holden is a character with depth and reason, as well. Desperate and realistic, Holden is an adolescent on the cusp of adulthood who is achingly afraid of the loss of his childhood and the responsibility and commitment that he feels is required to make it in the world. A rebel and troublemaker, Holden experiences the extremes of entering into adulthood and relates it in a way that almost everyone, especially teenagers, can understand. His compassion and intelligence shines through the pages, and the reader is able to discern that Holden’s surface response to a situation is hiding a much deeper, emotional response.

In my opinion, a reader will either identify with Holden or they won’t. Those who do will see a misunderstood and fascinating individual who is battling a harsh and hypocritical world. Those who don’t will see a self-absorbed teenager with a repetitive train of thought who never stops talking. Never.

However, I did try to view him from both perspectives and ended up realizing that underneath his manufactured, rebellious, and indifferent facade was a genuinely lonely and lost boy. Then, I simply became transfixed on finding the real Holden Caulfield.

Captivating and real in every way possible, The Catcher in the Rye is a fantastic book that makes you re-question society and its darker purposes. 3.9/5 for a powerful classic about a lost boy trying to find himself in an ignorant world.

by Amy Pan