Holden Caulfield is a character that has largely been remembered for his distaste for the human race in general and yet his unwavering effort to find connection. He captures the essence of being a teenager in The Catcher in the Rye and it is among one of the first and most notable pieces in English literature that explore the teenage angst.
‘This book expands your horizons on how and what a typical troubled teenager thinks’ The Guardian.
16 year old Holden Caulfield gets expelled from one of New York almost prestigious schools and we see what a troubled teenager does on Christmas’s holidays trying to escape the disappointment of his parents while also not having any friends or someplace else to go.
We see that he passes only one subject and that is English composition because he reads outside of course yet he fails in other subjects that are outside of his grasp such as ‘Oral Expression’ because he thinks it’s more interesting when they ‘digress’. Holden Caulfield is in itself a literary masterpiece, created with equal parts pessimism and optimism.
“I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot. ”
We see his character as confused, depressed, and switching between highly interested in things to not being interested in anything at all. For a change, if you haven’t read the book, watch the movie ‘Rebel in the rye‘ along with the book and you’ll see how so many people thought Holden Caulfield was downright insane for having so many mood swings.
We see that Holden Caulfield comes from a wealthy family and is enrolled in the prestigious school of ‘Pencey Prep’ despite that fact that he has been expelled from numerous schools before. We see that he is unhappy and finds it difficult to fit in among the different groups that he encounters at school. He considers them all too ‘phony’ to roam around with. He also feels that the company he keeps isn’t the best either such as his friend ‘Stradler’ that he gets into an altercation with in the very beginning of the story.
“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”
Holden, decides to spend time alone in New York City before he can return home and make it in time for his sister Pheobe’s play. He experiences many lows during this period and we see the loneliness, the arrogance and the immature yet restless personality of his. This is what makes his character so endearing and relatable. How he wants to spend every single minute experiencing something but he find that he has got neither the company, nor the patience for any of it.
In 1951 when The Catcher in the Rye was published it was popular enough to drive a mad amount of attention to the doorstep of the author, J. D. Salinger. Being a war veteran and suffering from PTSD as many veterans did at the time, he felt that the excessive attention was not good for him. This led him to retire into life of solace where he focused solely on writing.
The Catcher in the Rye isn’t a book you’d find in the school curriculum due to the excessive use of profanity, referral to underage smoking, drinking and sex. Although it is by the far the best representation of how most kids feel about school. Coupled with extreme bouts of depression and severe alcohol and drug abuse at a considerably young age, this book is too controversial to give in the hands of children. Indeed this would result in unnecessary glorification of drug abuse, flunking classes for the sake of it and worst of all: depression. On the other hand The Catcher in the Rye has the strange potential to be relatable to a teenager and we can’t say the same for many books actually written for teenagers. Do we want to mislead a younger audience by telling them roaming around in New York and drinking excessively at 12 has a happy ending? Not really. But the book has the ability to show the gravity of feeling misunderstood and having not realized your goal in life. And that is what makes this book surprisingly attractive to all age groups despite the defined age group that the book is written about.
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
The book is a liberal take and simply the story of a small rebellious encounter that beautifully and honestly describes the thoughts and feelings of a troubled teenage boy. It is one of a kind and despite being irritated more than often with Holden’s ability to love and hate everything at any given time, you find yourself enjoying the clever humor of it.
“I was trying to feel some kind of good-bye. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-bye or a bad good-bye, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t you feel even worse.”
^ Also that is my favorite quote from The Catcher in the Rye. Share yours in the comments below.
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