So I read this book, after my friends repeatedly asked me to do a little bit of fiction reading, a lot of non fictions was making me too technical, robotic and stiff.
‘The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one,’ Catcher in the Rye, JD Salinger
Angry, bitter, hot blooded and confused, Holden Caulfield has difficulty finding out what he really wants, who he really was and what he really likes as a teenager, it’s a phony world that he lives in, and everyone around him are morons and perverts including his own parents.
“Phony” which I suppose means a fraudster or someone who’s misleading is a word the book has been generously strewn with all over. It has been used as an adjective to describe places and people alike. You would love those numerous edgy slangs that he uses in the novel.
Holden is caught up in that bitter storm of transformation when a kid reaches adolescence, when the world suddenly is no more a fairy tale, when clouds are water droplets and not cotton bales, and when no one gives a near damn about whatever happens to those ducks and fishes when the sea freezes to a solid block in winter.
He despises old men, intellectuals, grownups, self admirers and hates almost about everyone or everything. He doesn’t even like many classical writers. Holden thinks, a book should be written in such a way that when a reader finishes up the book, he wants to call up the writer and ask if he could hang out with him.
He doesn’t want to call up Somerset Maugham for instance.
Catcher in the Rye is an easy read, a page turner. The story line in the book covers just around three days, the day when Holden decides to run away from school which he is not very fond of, till he finally makes up his mind to go home.
The book plunges deep into the feelings and emotions of an adolescent who thinks he’s lost his identity because of that sudden transformation in the way in which he looks at the world or the way in which the world looks at him.
After flunking in almost every subject except English and after a brief wrangle with his roomy Stradlater, regarding a girl, Holden decides to leave school. School according to him is a phony place where you have to pretend you are sorry when your favourite basketball team loses.
He puts up in a cheap hotel, drinks a lot of alcohol and smokes cartons of cigarettes.
He has no difficulty or does not hesitate in starting a conversation with anyone he sees in the street. The novel then follows the stupor that Holden is in. It gets quite sickening to the reader when Holden almost blows up all of his ‘dough’ in drinks and smoke and all that drunk walking, passing out, vomiting, bleeding etc. is quite a shocker? but he keeps his senses alright.
For a sixteen year old school kid, Holden can really drink galons and smoke a million cigarettes.
Besides his unruly behavior and character, JD Salinger quietly or almost secretly brings out the other side of Holden, a symbol of revolution, a rebel, a hero, and a kick ass teenager who doesn’t want to abide by norms.
Holden refuses to follow the daily course of life. He does not want to live a life where his elders ask him never to think outside the box. Holden explains to one of his teachers the reason he flunked in his oral examination was because he digressed a lot from the point he was supposed to be speaking.
Its boring, Holden says, when someone sticks to the point, ‘I like it when someone suddenly talks about his uncle’s cancer when he has been asked to talk about his farm or anything’
In the later part of the novel, Holden also takes home valuable lessons in life, about finding out the size of his mind, and dressing them accordingly.
Catcher in the rye would make you laugh, make you feel sorry, it’s craziness would amaze you exceedingly. And it would also let you understand that vital teenage experience of alienation- Happy Reading.