Friday, December 24, 2010

Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Plot: Holden Caulfield is not your typical teenage boy. He doesn't have many friends, hates school and is flunking all his classes but English, and thinks almost everyone is a "phony". He's criticizing and sarcastic, but while he claims he can hardly stand being around his classmates, Holden seems desperate for attention and company. Striking out on his own, Holden has an adventure that creates a story of rebellion, sexuality, and self-acceptance - or self-rejection.

First Line: "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 crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."

Comments: This book was assigned for reading in my English class, and I was a bit apprehensive when I began reading. I'd heard only negative comments from my classmates and friends - no one I talked to had a good word to say about the book or Holden, except for a couple of my teachers. But when I was a few pages in, I realized that, contrary to popular opinion, I was actually enjoying the story. Surprising? I think part of the reason none of my friends liked Catcher in the Rye was because it was a book they were required to read for the eternally hated  homework. Maybe if they'd given the book a chance and a clean slate, they would have enjoyed it more.

I really loved Holden. He was such a complex and intriguing character. He was constantly complaining and criticizing, but while I can see how that could be annoying, it rather endeared him to me. I could tell that behind his cynicism and disdain for other people, Holden wished he could be like those people, wanted to be accepted and loved. But instead everyone thought he was strange and a little insane. Holden was, in my opinion, a true underdog, and I felt sorry for him. He thought very differently from other people, and I laughed out loud at his witty mutterings and ideas. I was really touched by the way he talked about his younger brother who had passed away. Holden was always mentioning Allie, and I could tell how much he missed him. Holden was also very dedicated to his younger sister Phoebe, and it turns out that he depends on her very much.

In the end, Holden Caulfield is just another confused teenager trying to find what life holds for him, and who he is. I have pity and sympathy for him, and empathy as well. I also have a lot of respect for Holden, and when the title of the book was finally explained in one of the last chapters, I realized how fiercely I wished his life could have been better. He's just misunderstood. And aren't we all?

Rating: I rate this book a ten out of ten. (I've never done that before!) To truly understand how I feel about this book, you would need to read the lines between the lines and actually listen to what Holden is trying to say. I hope you find this story as heartfelt and funny and wise and beautiful and depressing and inspiring as I did.

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