The Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye discussion

Did anyone else just not "get" this book?

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Andie Stockwell Johns I read it to see what all the fuss was about and I still have no idea. All I got out of it was a teenager whining about his life and college and girls and how everything sucks. I don't understand why this is such a classic or why there's so much controversy over it. Anyone care to enlighten me?

Melissa Crandall LOL! I felt exactly the same way....much to the dismay of a good friend who LOVES this book. I never read it in high school, but finally picked it up in my early 30s. I read it...and went "Huh? What?" Seems to be the sort of book you either LOVE and embrace wholeheartedly....or don't. Glad to know I'm not alone!

Robin I think since it was written from a teenager's point of view, it was unheard of when the book was first published, I am thinking early 50's or so. Or 60's. So given that it was written in that vein, maybe it stirred controversy, I don't know. That is just my opinion.

Julie Im with Stockwell on this , read it thinking it was some classic that i had missed , when i read it i was totally non plussed, couldnt see it at all.

Paul 'Pezski' Perry Completely with you on this one. Maybe I read it too late - I didn't read it until my thirties, and perhaps you need to be closer to Holden's age. Although I still think i'd have found him to be an insufferable spoiled brat. I think you have a point, Robin, I'm sure it had more impact for readers in 1951. But to be a classic surely something has to stand the test of time.

I was just thinking the other day how nice it would be to be able to approach any book with no preconceptions - this is supposed to be a classic, or that is deemed to be trash. This is one of those books that I vaguely intend to re-read because it left me feeling I missed something, but I don't know if that's just because of its reputation. The Turn of the Screw left me feeling exactly the same way.

Cortney Jean I read this at around the same age of Holden, sometime in high school (can't remember exactly when), and didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Holden seemed whiney and pretentious. I completely see how at the time this was written seeing a true teenager's perspective unfiltered was probably mind-boggling, and for many readers it gave them a character to identify with amidst the public image of squeaky clean wholesome perfection. In today’s culture though, we’re used to seeing the extremes of teenage society and Holden isn’t a unique character to us. At some point I want to read this again from a fresh perspective; compare my view as a scraggly teenager to the view of a more matured young adult and see if it’s any different.

Tacuazin I totally agree with many of the comments written here. In fact, there are at least other 17 people that didn't find the thrill in this book either:

Melissa Crandall Referencing Paul's comment about a classic standing the test of time, I find myself wondering what makes a book a classic? And why? I picked up "Moby Dick" recently expecting a rollicking good read about this massive battle between Ahab and the whale, and the book turned out to be drier than dust. In fact, the main event (the final battle between Ahab and Moby) doesn't take place until the last chapter or so. I don't need instant gratification in my books, but there has to be something happening to move things along and this just didn't have it. (On the other hand, I find myself wondering why so many of J.M. Barrie's books are not considered classics, as they are delightful.) Ah, well. Guess it comes down to personalities and opinions.

Thom Swennes It was written in and for another generation. The present generation may have difficulty following thought patterns of their parents and grandparents.

Simon Thom wrote: "It was written in and for another generation. The present generation may have difficulty following thought patterns of their parents and grandparents."

I completely disagree. I don't know, I read the book when I was 16 (which was only 8 years ago) and loved it. But Catcher in the Rye was not written for everybody. You have to be a certain kind of teenager to really appreciate it. Go to any American high school, and find the kids getting high behind the trees in the back and they'll tell you it's the best book they've ever read.

message 11: by George (last edited May 16, 2011 10:33AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

George King Perhaps the early 50's vernacular makes it of another generation, but the subject matter is timeless--an adolescent on the cusp of adulthood and resisting the plunge into unknown waters. Salinger's creation of character and his stream-of-consciousness technique are superb. Just because one doesn't like Holden, doesn't make the book inferior. The fact that Salinger caused that reaction speaks to the excellence of his writing. Holden is pretentious, he is whiny and self-absorbed--like some teenagers, but still distinctive in his voice.

message 12: by George (last edited May 16, 2011 07:06AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

George King Melissa wrote: "Referencing Paul's comment about a classic standing the test of time, I find myself wondering what makes a book a classic? And why? I picked up "Moby Dick" recently expecting a rollicking good re..."

I can't agree with you on Moby Dick. Here's my review:

Call me Fishmael.

I gave MOBY DICK four stars because 80% of the novel is a rip-roaring adventure on the high seas, while 20% consists of digressions or sidebars that stop the story in its tracks. Some sample digressions are the classification of whales, whiteness, clam chowder, illustrators of whales, and so on. All of these detours do support the story, some more than others (whiteness), but they still interrupt the narrative flow. If I were teaching this now to gifted high school students, I would propose something heretical. I would mark certain chapters as optional—it’s easy to find them given the chapter headings—but I would include them in class discussion by assigning students to individual chapters. Their merits could then be debated. I would suggest to anyone re-reading MOBY DICK or approaching it for the first time to take a similar approach—skip the detours unless you find them interesting.

As for the bulk of the novel, it’s like a superabundant ocean overflowing with treasures. The passages describing the hunting, killing, and harvesting of whales are incomparable. Adding to this corpus delectable are vigorous characters, Shakespearean language and irony, classical and Biblical allusions, allegory and metaphor, laugh-out-loud humor, and an engaging narrator who disappears seamlessly in the latter sections of the tale.

Many of these elements are present in one of my favorite scenes. The Pequod frequently encounters other ships on its journey (these meetings are called “gams”), and Ahab in his haste to board one of these vessels realizes that his artificial leg will not allow him to climb from his dinghy to the other boat’s deck. A huge grappling hook is lowered, one that is used to secure the carcasses of whales to the boat, and Ahab sits in the curve of the hook while being raised to the passing ship’s deck. All of the gams in MOBY DICK are amusing and enlightening because Ahab’s sole concern is to ask the other captains if they’ve seen the white whale, while their intent lies elsewhere. The conversations are thus at cross purposes, providing humor, and serve to underline Ahab’s obsession.

Two scenes were remarkably reminiscent of HAMLET. Starbuck, the first mate, is convinced that Ahab is leading the crew to its doom. Late in the story, he eyes a musket outside of Ahab’s cabin and considers murdering the sleeping captain. After a long soliloquy, during which Ahab cries out nightmarishly, Starbuck passes up the opportunity, much as Hamlet does when he encounters Claudius alone and praying. Anyone familiar with HAMLET cannot miss the unmistakable foreshadowing. In another scene, Ahab and the ship’s carpenter are discussing Queequeg’s coffin, which is actually a canoe of sorts. The carpenter has been given the task of converting the coffin into a life buoy, a humorous irony in itself. The ensuing conversation is not unlike Hamlet’s hilarious exchange with the gravedigger.

Ahab: Art thou the leg-maker? Look, did not this stump come from thy shop?
Carpenter: I believe it did, sir; does the ferrule stand, sir?
Ahab: Well enough. But art thou not also the undertaker?
Carpenter: Aye, sir; I patched up this thing here as a coffin for Queequeg. ; but they’ve set me now to turning it into something else.
Ahab: Then tell me; art thou not an arrant, all-grasping, intermeddling, monopolizing, heathenish old scamp, to be one day making legs, and the next day coffins to clap them in, and yet again life-buoys out of those same coffins? Thou art as unprincipled as the gods, and as much of a jack-of-all-trades.

The twists and turns of fate are out of Ahab’s control, but Melville’s mastery of MOBY DICK is complete.

Paul 'Pezski' Perry I don't think my lack of connection to the book is to do with any dislike of Holden - in fact it constantly amazes me that so many people here on GR seem to base their reviews on whether or not they like the characters. An unlikable lead can be superbly engaging. I frankly just find Holden uninteresting in his self-absorption.

Perhaps it's because I do need some plot to hang characterisation on; I've never been a fan of the 20th century tendency of literary fiction to dispense with plot as something that should only be used by genre fiction.

Oddly, I've noticed that a lot of people who love Catcher seem hate one of my favorites, The Great Gatsby. There are a lot of similarities; the mores and language of another era, privileged, self-absorbed, unlikable characters. But the way they act interests me; the way they react and interact - which is something lacking in the internal monologue of Holden Caulfield. And, although this is obviously pure value judgment, on my single experience of Salinger I think Fitzgerald is a far better writer. I must read something else by him, perhaps Franny and Zooey.

message 14: by George (last edited May 16, 2011 10:37AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

George King I agree with you about Gatsby. Here's my review:

By some quirk in my personal history, I'd never read Gatsby. It has many beautifully written, poetic passages, and Gatsby's demise retains an ineffable sadness that moved me in the final pages. The absence of mourners at his funeral was particularly poignant. Fitzgerald's theme of pursuing an incompletely realized dream is universal, with the corollary that if one's timing is off, the dream may forever remain out of reach. Add to this a crushing irony: in order to win Daisy, Gatsby strove to make himself a member of her wealthy Long Island society, but she is shallow and frivolous and her husband is brutish and racist. The others in their group show no loyalty to Gatsby, the man who'd thrown them lavish parties, by deserting him in death.

I'll comment briefly on the poetic nature of Fitzgerald's prose. He uses two metaphors involving water that are linked inextricably to the action of the novel. At the beginning of the story, the narrator, Nick, notes that "Conduct may be founded on the hard rock or the wet marshes..." comparing conduct to an edifice that can be built on a solid base ("hard rock") or a tenuous one ("wet marshes"). Foreshadowing is at work here as Gatsby's springboard into affluent society turns out to be a yacht in a dangerously shallow mooring. Unfortunately, Gatsby is floating in his pool at the end when he is shot to death. The novel concludes with another "wet" metaphor in the justly famous line "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessy into the past." Humans are boats struggling to row into the future, while all the while carried backward by Time's river. Figures of speech are only effective if they complement the surrounding language and action.

Another vivid display of language occurs at the beginning of Chapter III with a 2 1/2 page description of the preparations for and beginning of a typical Gatsby party. "On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors d'oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold." Later, the narrator notes, "The bar is in full swing, and floating rounds of cocktails permeate the garden outside, until the air is alive with chatter and laughter, and casual innuendo and introductions forgotten on the spot, and enthusisatic meetings between women who never knew each other's names." A milieu built on the "wet marshes" indeed.

Kressel Housman I totally didn't get it as a teenager. I did when I re-read it as an adult.

Mrs. Lopez I did not get it or like it. What I have learned in talking to others who have read the book is that one either loves it or hates it -- there is not in-between on this one.

message 17: by Max (new) - rated it 4 stars

Max Palladini I just finished the book and really enjoyed it. I can see why it is banned in so many schools and why some of you might not like it. It does have too much deeper meaning stuff in it but, it is overall a very entertaining novel.

Charlotte Waller I remember having to read it in high school and thinking it was really a guy's book. It was blah to us girls. Not as bad as having to read Treasure Island though. It was completely pointless! ha

message 19: by Lucy (new) - rated it 1 star

Lucy Thank you to all those who didnt "get it". I thought I was totally alone. I recall many people over the years discussing this classic coming of age novel, but I thought it was pure junk. The first time I read it, I was about 17. I tried to re-read it some time ago and couldn't get past the first few pages. I hate Catcher In The Rye.

message 20: by Angie (last edited May 16, 2011 09:08PM) (new) - added it

Angie I haven't read it yet, but I saw an episode of South Park where the book is given by their teacher and the boys said they were tricked in order to read a book, waiting to see gruesome and controversial parts. The boys are in fourth grade by the way.

What I also learnt in that episode that the book was read by John Lennon's killer.

Robin South Park? That show is rubbish. There is nothing gruesome maybe controversial, since the voice of Holden Caulfield spoke much like another movie of about that same time, Rebel without a Cause. Maybe two juxtaposing viewpoints, but those were different times, same teenage angst, that never changes.

Spiritfeather This is a book that one definitely has put into context. Because it takes place in the 60's, one has to be aware of what was considered acceptable behavior then as opposed to now.

I read the book during that timeframe and found it shocking, hysterical, etc. for that period of time. The topic is nothing compared to what we are exposed to on an hourly basis.

Kressel Housman So Holden's message is even more true today - if only we could catch kids in the rye and preserve their innocence!

Olivia Simon wrote: "Thom wrote: "It was written in and for another generation. The present generation may have difficulty following thought patterns of their parents and grandparents."

I completely disagree. I don't ..."

I agree with this. It's one of my favorite books and most of those who agree with me are stoners. Lol

message 25: by Maryann (last edited May 17, 2011 08:53AM) (new)

Maryann I read this book as a freshman in college (a very long time ago!) and absolutely loved it...actually laughed out loud at much of the narrative. This is a story about Holden's rite of passage during the 60's - the often isolating, frightening,sad,enlightening and exhilarating time between adolescence and adulthood. Holden's transition represents the advent of a turbulent and significant time of change in our society. If you didn't "get it" the first time, try again - you might see Holden in context and better understand his message.

Candice Abraham I didn't read this book in high-school either and though I wasn't knocked off my feet I did enjoy it. Really, what I enjoyed the most was the voice. I felt like I'd just plunked myself right into Holden's head and I didn't take the rest too seriously. I remember feeling all that angst as a teenager and I enjoyed hearing it from Holden's perspective.

Kressel Housman I think the kids who *get* Holden are probably nothing like him.

Candice Abraham Kressel wrote: "I think the kids who *get* Holden are probably nothing like him."

Could be.

Kathie I read this book many years ago (late 60's/early 70's) because others raved about it. I think it may have been banned from our high school library. I made myself plod through it but I felt like I was missing something. Even today when people refer to the book I wonder what they see that I obviously missed.

Kressel Housman Candice wrote: "Kressel wrote: "I think the kids who *get* Holden are probably nothing like him."

Could be."

That's from the point of view of one who didn't get it as a teenager and was a lot like him, but even more like Franny of Franny and Zooey.

Melissa Kressel wrote: "I totally didn't get it as a teenager. I did when I re-read it as an adult."

That was very much my experience. I read it early in hight school and thought, "so what?". I read it again in my second year of college and although it had only been 4 years difference - it was amazing how different I perceived it at the second reading.

Robin Sometimes when we read books as teenagers it either resonates with us or it doesn't. And when we do mature we get it. There is no way I would have been able to "get" Charles Dickens when I was a teenager.

message 33: by Amy (new) - rated it 4 stars

Amy When I read this, I was the exactd same age as Holden. I didn't get what all the fuss was about, I thought I had missed something because I've heard so much about it and all I got was a kid killing time in NYC. I'm thinking I should read it again with some discussion questions or something.

message 34: by San (new) - rated it 3 stars

San Alini Great question. I feel like I "got" it but I didn't quite see what all the fuss was about. I think maybe the themes were new for their time. But I think far better books with much more insight into the disaffected young person have been written since. That's not to take anything from Salinger. He deserves recognition for doing what he did at the time when he did it.
S Alini, Author

Rebecca I always heard that it was thins great book that teenagers "connected" with and I felt like I didn't "get it". I think I understand the book and Holden but I don't really see what the fuss is about I didn't "connect" with him or the book at all.

message 36: by Dj (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dj I read it in 8th grade, and I couldn't really get into it. I don't know whether it was book content or my young mind

message 37: by Seeuuder (last edited May 18, 2011 06:52PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Seeuuder I read The Catcher in the Rye in High School in 1971. I loved the book! I thought Holden was really "cool" especially since he swore. I remember thinking that there must be something wrong with our english teacher because she assigned us to read a book that had swear words. I thought she would get into trouble.

I read the book a second time when I was in my mid 40's and I thought it was boring. I wanted to slap the crud out of Holden. I guess after thirty years of growing up and raising two teenagers, I found the book no longer to be amusing nor was Holden "cool".

message 38: by Sarah (new) - rated it 1 star

Sarah D. I agree with those who say it's either a book you like or you hate. I was really eager to read it but when I finished the book I was like... wow, I can't stand this book. The Great Gatsby was a far better book than this.

message 39: by Jodie (new) - rated it 1 star

Jodie I read believing it was a classic up there with To Kill a Mockingbird. I was WRONG what a load of pretentious crap. The character was not only whiny but he was boring. I would have to say this was the most disappointing book I have ever read. I can generally get the "bigger picture" in a book but this totally escaped me.

Kressel Housman Dj wrote: "I read it in 8th grade, and I couldn't really get into it. I don't know whether it was book content or my young mind"

Your young mind. It was celebrated as a book for teenagers, but really, it's just a book about a teenager.

Janie This book is known as one of the very first young adult fiction novels, written for teens. Also, mind, that it has a LOT of symbolism that maybe is supposed to give us the big picture in life (regarding the state of childhood innocence and the cruel world that we live in and etc.).

message 42: by Jodie (new) - rated it 1 star

Jodie I am curious to see if many Australians "got this book" my guess is not a lot of them did, perhaps it is an American classic because it speaks to American teenagers but it seems so far removed from the life of the average Australian teenager.

Robin They sure do, Wally.

message 44: by J (new) - rated it 4 stars

J I read this book when I was 16, and I couldn't put it down. I started reading it for school, but I finished it in one night because I was so engrossed in it. I wonder how I would feel about it if I read it again at a now older age?

Francine I liked Catcher in the Rye but it wasn't a book that I adored. I empathized with Holden, though, maybe cause I'm a teenager.

In my understanding, he is a lonely teenager looking for someone to talk to, because that's basically what he does for almost the entire book-look for someone to talk to.

Of course he's whiny cause he's bitter and alone. A pessimistic view on the world can only be brought on by 'SERIOUS' loneliness.

Robin True.

Kressel Housman Jodie wrote: "I am curious to see if many Australians "got this book" my guess is not a lot of them did, perhaps it is an American classic because it speaks to American teenagers but it seems so far removed from..."

I'm an American who grew up in NYC, but at age 14, I did not get it at all.

message 48: by Angelo (new) - added it

Angelo Kalanges I just finished reading it a couple days ago. Personally, I think it's a great book. However, it's easy to see why people don't understand why it's such a classic.
It's from a teenagers point of view, not only that, but a depressed, alienated, lonely teenager. For someone that isn't in the teenage years, or for teens that don't feel depressed, alienated, or lonely, it doesn't really resonate with them. However, for someone that has experienced these kinds of feelings, it makes Holden very real. The people can relate to him, he can say what they can't say. Holden helps teens that feel the same way as him feel not so alone. Giving someone to relate to, so they know they're not alone, and others have felt the same way.
This is a great book, if you can relate to it.

Skylar Burris I read it as a teenager and didn't get it at all, but I'm wondering if I wouldn't appreciate it more if I re-read it now as an adult. What vague memories I have of it make me think that maybe this is more of a book you read after you've been a bit jaded by life, and maybe I ought to try again.

Robert I think the guts of the novel are encompassed in his relationship with his sister. Wanting to connect while remaining an outsider & being misunderstood is a pretty timeless theme, but the writing style is probably really hard for younger people to get into these days. Maybe if it was released it as a twitter stream..

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Books mentioned in this topic

The Catcher in the Rye (other topics)
The Turn of the Screw (other topics)
The Great Gatsby (other topics)
Franny and Zooey (other topics)
Lord of the Flies (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

J.D. Salinger (other topics)
John Green (other topics)
JD Salinger (other topics)