David Sarkies's Reviews > The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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it was amazing
bookshelves: modernist

The Joys of Being a Teenager
22 July 2017

I remember years ago I was watching this film where Mel Gibson played this conspiracy theorist (and Patrick Stewart played the bad guy); the catch was that all of Gibson’s theories actually turned out to be true and he was actually a former intelligence operative who had had his memory wiped. The way that the agency kept tabs on him was to implant this desire to purchase every copy of Catcher in the Rye that he came across – the reason being that their systems would monitor every bookshop for when that particular ISBN was scanned. As it turned out the guy that attempted to shoot then President Ronald Regan apparently had a connection with the book (at least according to Wikipedia). Anyway, after watching this movie I came across the book and curiosity got the better of me, particularly since I had never heard of it before, so I grabbed it and read it, though I should point out that my bookshelf doesn’t happen to be jam packed with this book – I only have the one copy.

The thing was, that first time I read it all those years ago, I was quite surprised as to how good it was. A part of me thought that since it was a plot piece in this okay, but not hugely fantastic movie, that it was just going to be some trashy novel – it turned out that it wasn’t, and in fact not only did it raise quite a bit of controversy when it was first published, but it is also one of those books that falls into the category of The Great American Novel (though I’ll leave that idea to the side for now). In fact, I so enjoyed the book on my first reading that when I started back-writing reviews for a lot of rather trashy books that I had read in the past I decided to leave this one so that I could do the review some justice by reading it again – the thing was that it has taken me quite a while to actually get my hands on another copy of the book.

I’m sure many of us here know about the story of Holden Caulfield and how he drifts about New York City one December weekend before Christmas trying to work out the point of life, drowning in cynicism and his desire to simply say ‘stuff this’ and move out west and live as a hermit in a cabin. In fact, I’m sure all of us who are reading this review are either, or have been at one point in our lives, a teenager (though despite there being a minimum age limit for people to sign up to Goodreads I suspect that there are younger people here). Whether all of us have been through the soul searching confusion that Holden is going through is really only for the reader to know.

I would say that the book is about the struggles one faces as one leaves the innocence of childhood and enters the world of the adult, but a part of me suspects that this isn’t necessary something that everybody in the world goes through, or has ever been through. The thing is that the concept of the teenager is actually a pretty modern concept, one that my English teacher suggested was created by the advertising industry to create a specific market in which to target specific products. Ironically, since he said that we have now seen the creation of the Tween – this stage of life when one is technically not a child, but not quite a teenager, and of course we have the youth, which is technically a person who is aged somewhere between eighteen and twenty-five (usually about university age).

I suspect that the reason Caulfield goes through this stage (and many of us as well) is purely due to something that not many people have – choice. The thing is that in the pre-industrial age, and even in many places today, people simply didn’t have a choice, they simply did what their parents did, and what their parent’s told them to do. In fact, I suspect that there are many people in our own society that simply have done what their parent’s have told them to do simply because the choice is so immense that falling back into that safety net is so much easier than running the risk of making the wrong decision. Yet it is interesting to note how many middle aged people you run into that simply drift through life, miserable, because of choices that they made when they were younger and simply regret it – or are even in a situation, such as a debt trap, that they cannot escape from (or on the other hand, making a change to escape from where they are is just way, way too hard).

The question that roamed through my head as I was drifting through this weekend with Caulfield was where he ended up. A apart of me sees the drug addled beggars lining the streets of Melbourne and I could half imagine that that was where Caulfield would be, yet he seemed to have some sort of a plan, but it was a plan that simply involved drifting. The thing was that he lived in a time of full employment, and getting a job, any job, really wasn’t all that hard. However, I have also met people in my generation who simply took the first job offer that they were given and have simply sat in that role, well, forever, and are likely to die in that role – honestly, not everybody is ambitious, and sometimes being ambitious means that you will sacrifice your ethics simply to get ahead, and some people are just not like that. I guess for some people, simply having a job, and drifting through life in that job satisfies them. I have my opinions, but in the end if that is what makes them happy, or gives them purpose, then so be it.

I’ll finish off with Caulfield’s comments about the phonies – this is something that we are regularly confronted with, and to be honest, I feel that Caulfield is right to be disgusted with that. The thing is that he his a person that is not only deep, but is real, and he expects everybody else to be like that as well. However, we live in a world were we walk around wearing masks, hiding our real selves behind a fantasy image that everything is going well and we are in control of our life. This has become moreso with the development of social media – we have also become marketers, marketing our life to put our best image forward. Okay, not everybody is necessarily like that, but quite a lot of us are (I known I am, but then again I have become pretty disenchanted with the whole Facebook thing – I suspect a bulk of its accountholders never actually use the site). In my mind I suspect Caulfield would either not have an account, or simply have created one but never used it.

Oh, there is also this section where Caulfeild mentions that the reason that he has never had sex is because the women always says stop, and when they tell him to stop, he stops. Honestly, this is good thing because there is a serious problem in our society, and not a day goes by when somebody on Facebook reminds the world that rape is rape and no certainly does not mean yes. I have to commend Caulfeild on actually stopping because it sounds like a lot of the guys that he knows won’t, and will continue through with the act. Sure, there is a lot of pressure amongst the guys to ‘get laid’ as they say, but the thing is that when a girl says no, she means it, and to push it further is rape – there is not other way around it. Honestly, peer pressure is one thing, and it is a horrible thing as well, but it will never, ever, justify what in the ends amounts of an assault on somebody else’s person.
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Reading Progress

July 15, 2017 – Started Reading
July 15, 2017 – Shelved
July 21, 2017 –
page 184
95.83% "Yeah Holden, it's called a hangover."
July 21, 2017 – Finished Reading
July 22, 2017 – Shelved as: modernist

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Emma Very interesting review. Thanks

David Sarkies Thankyou

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