The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Page Count: 277
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Original Publication Date: 1951
Genre(s): Classics, Young adult, Coming-of-age
It’s no surprise when Holden Caulfield flunks out of yet another school. Instead of going straight home to inform his parents, Holden spends a few whirlwind days around New York City calling up old friends, drinking in bars (illegally, of course), and crashing in sleazy places. Rather than face his parents, he chooses loneliness and misery, and lands himself in a few no-so-pleasant circumstances. But in the end, he learns…something. Maybe. I’m not so sure.
Like, did I read a fake version of this novel? Did I pick up a boring, horrible knock-off version of this so-called classic? I don’t think. I think I really and truly read The Catcher in the Rye, and I absolutely hated every minute of it. I know, I know—English majors aren’t supposed to express their real opinions about classic literature, but I’ve never shied away from doing so. Canon-literature lovers, beware…
Right away, I had no idea what the novel was even about. The synopsis online is vague. I made it through the first 20 pages of the novel and still didn’t know what it was about. And now, after reading all 250+ pages, I can say with certainty that the novel isn’t about anything at all.
I am joking, of course. There is a point to the novel (I think), I just hate the way it’s delivered. This novel does not have a plot, and I think that’s why I hate it. Let’s start with that, shall we? Holden gets kicked out of yet another school, and wanders around NYC for a few days, mostly drunk and always in a mood. Every 3 paragraphs, the story switches from present-day to an aside, some random memory from Holden’s past. They’re not important. They don’t matter to the story, because there is no story. It’s just Holden wandering around, making bad decisions, and talking WAY TOO MUCH. Nothing happens. If you’re waiting for some big ah-ha! moment, or literally just for anything interesting to happen, don’t hold your breath.
Also, Holden is a terrible narrator. Told in first-person POV, The Catcher in the Rye is borderline stream of consciousness from the perspective of a conceited sixteen-year-old. He’s also got to have manic depression, this kid. He can be endearing at times, but mostly I was just annoyed with him. He constantly talked about hating “phonies,” but he just felt phony to me, himself! Honestly, he just seemed like a bored kid with ADHD and a lack of parental guidance. I just couldn’t stand the kid.
So, when a novel has no plot, it’s all about the character. Well, I disliked the character immediately. So then, it’s all about the character arc and maybe liking the character towards the end of the novel. Well, I don’t think Holden grows at all. I don’t think there’s any sort of character arc. I couldn’t find anything I liked about this novel.
Maybe if I’d read it in school as a kid, and actually learned about what makes this such a great novel, maybe then I would have liked it. But in all actuality, I was bored and annoyed. I know what matters most is the time period this novel was published, and that it’s all about losing innocence and preserving childhood, but I just couldn’t connect to the story at all. I don’t think I’ll ever revisit this novel. I hate to be so harsh, but that’s just how I feel, and I want to be honest.
If you enjoy The Catcher in the Rye, or maybe it’s your favorite novel, please comment and let me know why you think so! I am genuinely interested to hear from people who do like this novel. Or, if you equally hate it, share that as well! Maybe it’ll help me feel less guilty for detesting an “American classic.” Sorry, Holden.
–“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.”
–“The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling.”