Monday, March 9, 2009

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye written by J.D. Salinger is set in the 1940s in New York. The story is narrated by a 17 year old boy named Holden Caufield, who has just been expelled from his school, Pencey Prep, which is his fourth school after failing out of three others. Before the school term ended, he took a train to New York, decided not to return home for he was afraid to break the news to his parents, and spent the next three days roaming aimlessly around New York City.

Throughout the three days, he met some pretty interesting characters like the pimp, the prostitute, the two nuns (whom he quite liked), the cabbies (who both thought Holden was a nutcase), and dated his girlfriend, Sally. Holden is quite a bitter teenager, who basically doesn't like anything and anyone, except probably for his deceased brother, Allie, and his sister whom he affectionately calls old Phoebe. Oh and Jane too, someone whom he could emphatise with because she had also lost a family member. Besides them, everything and everyone else are "phonies" - a term used quite often throughout his narration.

Profanities is one of the languages Holden spoke best. He is one helluva cynical teenager full of teenage angst, paranoia and distrust. At one point, he thought his ex school teacher, Mr. Antolini, was trying to take advantage of him when he gave a pat on Holden's forehead while he was asleep (Holden put up a night at Mr. Antolini's because he had nowhere else to go). Well, he could be right, but we'll never know because we were only told that much.

Like the author, Holden loves children. When Phoebe asked what he wanted to do with his life, he said he wanted to be the catcher in the rye (the title was taken from a line in Robert Burn's song), someone who rescues kids from falling off the cliff on a field of rye, then sends them back to play.

Overall, it's quite an entertaining story told in a colloquial manner. It has some funny bits too. One of my favourite parts is at the final part of the story, where the psychoanalyst asked Holden if he was going to apply himself when he goes back to school. Holden thought it was such a stupid question. He said, "I mean, how do you know what you're going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don't. I think I am, but how do you know? I swear it's a stupid question." I really thought that was brilliant!

Picking this up for a read would probably bring you nostalgic memories of your teenage days haha :P

The book image was taken from: http://ww.fbley.de/img/b_catcher.jpg

2 comments:

Frank, Wong said...

I read this Salinger's work many years back, from a tattered second-hand paperback. I can still remember its maroon red cover and brownish old pages. It's not a BIG book but belongs to the type of books that lingers in your mind. Some books can really do that to you. If you ask me, what're the most memorable parts, I would not have a certain answer to that. Possibly the dialogs between the protagonist and his roommate, something referring to the roommate's state of cleanliness. Strangely, I only took notice of the "Catcher in the Rye" part near the end of the short novel during my second reading, a few years down the line. Don't know why, the atmosphere Salinger created for the novel was the one that struck me as most memorable. I could totally picture the damp streets, dingy lighting and the shady dormitory that characters lived in (Maybe because I had lived in one of them myself). Read one of Salinger's short stories not so long ago. It was about a young man who shot himself at the end of the story. Can't say it's good or bad, but as I first said, IT DOES LINGER.

A Bookaholic said...

Hi Frank, thx for dropping by :) I agree, it stays in your mind, not just the words, but the visuals too. The Catcher in The Rye is also the sort of book that you'd be able to read over and over again, and discover new things.

Hmmm...do you remember the title of the short story?

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