Melanie's Reviews > The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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Jun 19, 07

bookshelves: classics
Read in November, 2006

As a child, we are protected from life. There really aren’t many choices available, and we are certainly sheltered from a lot of the harder parts of life. It seems like children don’t feel the need for meaning quite like adults do- maybe because they aren’t forced to face the daily grind. There’s boredom, but that is not what I am talking about. Kids don’t really have to compromise like adults do. As you enter adulthood you could start to see things and people as phony or fake. Maybe not people, but certain tasks or events certainly are. There’s a constant struggle in all of us between the meaningful and the mundane; the temporary and the eternal. There is a conflict, simply of time and energy. We desire the intentional and struggle towards spirituality; all while trying to earn a paycheck, wash our dishes, and sleep each night. It kind of reminds me of what I picture an AA meeting to look like. I think, rarely could someone find a place where people are more vulnerable, open, and honest with each other. Even if they win over addiction… how could life ever feel as full after that brief moment shared with others who completely understand? At the same time, the point of those meetings is to help people live- not just free from drugs, but maybe free to live in the mundane? Free to enjoy the dance of life, the needs of the soul balanced with the chores too. This doesn’t have to be depressing, but it does require compromise- or a sense of a time and place for everything- including the day-to-day.

Catcher in the rye touches on some of these questions. Holden struggles with growing up. He sees everything as meaningless and adults as predictable and fake. I think he is mourning the loss of his innocence… maybe not just right from wrong, but the loss of dreams growing up seems to require. Holden, while at the museum that is exactly the same as it was when he was a kid says he likes it, because each time you visit "the only thing that would be different would be you…" and goes on to say "certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it’s too bad anyway." One thing I thought of to help explain Holden's struggle with growing up is this: Coffee. When I was a kid, I used to smell my dad's coffee- that strong sugary-sweet smell of roasted beans. You wait for your chance to be let in on this excellent secret. Thinking it is just the caffeine that is preventing your parents from giving you a taste. Finally, they do and then all your dreams of that sweet flavor come crashing down! It's wrecked! Coffee isn't at all what you thought it was! That is, until the day you give it another chance, you start to be able to smell and taste the different tones coffee has. You can appreciate it for its varied, and almost living flavors. You see… Coffee isn't bad- it just wasn't what you always thought. The key is in finding the hidden flavors and getting over the fact that it will never taste as sweet as it smells. I think Holden struggled with the initial shock, that although life is more bitter than it "smells", or than you think it will be, there are the hidden joys and sweet flavors that make it almost better!

This book doesn’t really set out to answer any of the questions it raises. Holden experiences the extremes of entering into adulthood and relates it in a way everyone, maybe especially, teenagers can understand. He is a flawed character who is desperate and depressed. As the reader, you can see why he feels the way he does, as he explains it so well you almost feel it with him. However, you can also see the flaws in his thinking. The author doesn't romanticize Holden's life, you don't read it thinking he has some special key to life that we all need. You simply feel his struggle to fit in and hope eventually he can learn to play the game and see the beauty that is there, hidden a little.
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael Hey Melanie I would like to ask you if I can put your review in my school newspaper. Please respond to me as soon as possible my email is

message 2: by Bret (last edited Sep 19, 2007 09:58PM) (new)

Bret My favorite book of all time. It's a shame most people don't uncover the hidden beauties in life before growing old and bitter.

I myself can feel the stranglehold of all the suckiness of the world as I grow more aware of all the trap doors set by insensitive human beings.

Back to Catcher...Holden seems like the type of kid who's ready to kick back at people before they try to drag him down. Who's going to take advantage of Holden Caufield? Who's going to lead him in the wrong direction and get away with it?

Outside of our families, most of us learn that you can only rely on yourself. Holden seems to realize this at a very young age. I admire his stance against the 'phoney' adult world. He's ready.

I hope Holden finds more zoos to sustain his happiness because, like you said, we're all trying to find a favorite sanctuary.

message 3: by N (new) - rated it 5 stars

N I adore that coffee analogy.

message 4: by Jay (new) - rated it 3 stars

Jay Kim true.. children doesn't really have choice.. all they need to do is follow their parent's decision but like Holden, if they grew enough, they can think deeply enough and choose what he wants or not. He is mature enough to think that studying is not really necessary in his life and that's why he could give up college.

Malyanah You are actually making a very good point on your first paragraph. It is true when the child is growing up, their characters will never be the same as we look back when they were young.
I actually like this book, but i would say, this is not the best book I have ever read in my entire life. It's just an ok book. I gave this book a three stars for making a story about teenage guys, even there is no plot in Salinger's first book.

Daniel Clausen I think too, one of the things Holden was rebelling against was the hypocrisy of institutions--the way they preach for people to be good, but often reward people for doing the exact things kids are told not to do. Reading your review I'm beginning to wonder if Holden's journey isn't in some ways like the main character in 1984--as adults are we taught to do forms of double think?

Jenie I love that Holden wants to save kids' innocence. He wants to be a hero. Love the coffee analogy...I still don't like coffee. :)

Michael S. Wow! Melanie, you said it all.

message 9: by Sushil (new) - added it

Sushil Nice review. I guess I will read now...

Donovan About a third of the way through the book and really enjoying it. Hard to believe it was written in the 1940's, as the characters seem so "current". Amazing job at capturing Holden's thoughts and struggles.

Anyway, just read your review and love it. Coffee analogy is fantastic!

Cosmic Arcata The Catcher in the Rye is about WW2. It is a story within a story. Holden (which is the name of a car) is just a vehicle to "understand" the WW2. See my review. When you understand that Salinger couldn't say what he knew about this war so he wrote it as a children's book... Just like Felix Salten in Bambi (not the Disney version, which is probably why Salinger didn't get his published.

Salinger tells you this is nit a David Copperfield story. So don't read it like it is about Holden. Hint: look at the first page of David Copperfield to understand "Caiulfields" name.

I hope you will reread it again. This time when you get to the Merry go round play the music Salinger said was playing, and see if that makes sense or if he is using this book to tell you about money, power and war.

Kevin Cole This is the most insightful review of this book that I have ever read. At last, somebody explains this novel's appeal.

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