Remy Sharp's Reviews > The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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** spoiler alert ** Wow this book was a slow read given that it was only 198 pages. It took me 4 weeks, which, isn't a huge amount of time, but the first 80% of the book felt like an age that just wouldn't end.

I was originally going to rate this book 1 star but it changed toward the end (the last 20% as I'll explain).

Holden Caulfield, as read by myself a near 40 year old man, is a bit of a whingebag, if put subtly. He's self centred and believes the world owes him something - god knows what though. The 1950s language doesn't really pose much of a problem (as I read it), and I appreciate that lives were very different to that of 70 years later in ~2018. Not being a teenager myself, I'm not pissed off at everyone for existing so I had trouble connecting to a large part of the story that Holden shares with me during the book.

The book is also fairly heavy with 1950s sexism, and it isn't uncommon to come across lines like "the trouble with girls is…". It's hard to read and I can imagine how it perpetuates the image of men being above women for the following decades. Either it's reflecting how men thought at the time, or it re-enforces how they were supposed to think.

Also, the trouble with Holden was that his (teenage) exaggeration made it hard to tell what was real and what was imagined and what was him simply trying to be older to his peers. Sometimes I was just confused as to what was real and what wasn't. But then he'd share his feelings about his family, sister and deceased brother Allie…

When Holden did talk about his family, it seems like you're able to see the real Holden under all the complexities of being a teenager. Then finally, around the 85% mark, Holden shares with his younger (adored) sister, that if he could be anything he would be:

"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 going 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'd 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."


I think, this is to say, he feels this unbearable responsibility to save his lost brother, and protect his family (and those around him) from the inevitable end.

Although Holden meets and (rightly) flees from a questionable encounter with an old teacher, moments before that teacher shares what I think what has been eating away at Holden all this time…and possibly for future years to come:

"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 wants to live humbly for one."


Something I realise that Holden struggles with, even at the early age of 16/17, and that he and many others, struggle with for year to come.

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So, after what was a fairly painful experience over 4 weeks of listening to Holden's complaining and poor view of life, I've come to soften my view of the poor soul and realise that he's just tortured and struggling and that it just took a whole lot of pages to get to what's really important to him.
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Reading Progress

October 5, 2017 – Shelved
October 5, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
April 10, 2018 – Started Reading
April 22, 2018 – Finished Reading

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