Big Red's Reviews > The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
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May 08, 2008

it was amazing
Read in March, 2008

J.D. Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’ was published on July 16, 1951. It was his first novel. It became very popular among young adolescents yet not so popular with older generations. I personally thoroughly enjoyed every part of this book. I felt very close to Holden Caulfield, the main character in the story, as I read it.
Holden Caulfield, a sixteen year old boy from New York, was quite unlike kids his age. He had no interest in being popular or social. From the very beginning he lets us into part of his personal life. His parents are very touchy and his mother is especially protective. It becomes clear very quickly where Holden’s interests lie and where they start to veer off. He tends to lean away from the fake in the world and is a teller of what is real.
Holden is not a fan of the movies at all. He saw his brother, D.B., throw away his natural writing talent all for a large Hollywood check. Any other boy Holden’s age would have been absolutely ecstatic to have a sibling working amongst the stats in Hollywood, but not Holden. It was all far too “phony” for him; and phony is his worst enemy.
Salinger’s use of sarcasm and irony is beautiful and hilarious. As I read through each chapter I found myself highlighting funny, sarcastic things Holden would say or think (and trust me, there are DOZENS of time where this occurs.) One specific time in Chapter 8 he is talking to a cab driver who is acting like a real fool. Holden says to the readers, “He certainly was good company. Terrific personality.”
Salinger’s character Holden is actually a lot like Salinger in his real life. Like Holden, Salinger was known for his reclusive nature. Uninterested with the fakeness of the world, Holden keeps his distance from phony people. After Salinger’s success of ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, he slowed down his publishing and slowly but surely drifted out of the public eye. To this day Salinger refuses any offers to have ‘The Catcher’ put on the big Hollywood screen. Salinger’s ex lover, Joyce Maynard, even once said that, “The only person who might ever have played Holden Caulfield would have been J.D. Salinger.” It seems to me that it is no coincidence that Holden is no fan of Hollywood and that Salinger in real life and doesn’t want anything to do with turning his popular novel into a movie. Holden says, “If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies, Don’t even mention them to me.”
Since I have learned more about Salinger’s personal life, I recognize a lot of Salinger’s personality in Holden. In the story, Holden has overbearing parents much like Salinger’s parents. Salinger said his mother was over protective. Salinger has one sibling, a sister, which is ironic because it is Holden’s sister Phoebe who has a profound influence on Holden. He often talks about her with very high regards.
Holden is not a character who tried to sugarcoat the way he sees the fakeness around him. Holden, making fun of the people around him, often says things like “you would’ve puked” and “it was very phony”. I think that is another one of the reasons I like his character so much. For example, he is quite upset with the fact that his brother D.B. is selling his work to Hollywood instead of using his talents for his own pleasure. Holden even says that his brother is his favorite author. Salinger himself is a man who wrote for his own pleasure and likeness.
I made a similar connection to a girl named Sally that Holden likes in the book, to a real life lover of Salinger’s named Oona. Oona O’Neil was self-absorbed and stuck up, according to Salinger, yet he still phoned and wrote her letters quite often. Holden’s “Oona” in the story was a girl named Sally Hayes. Though he found her extremely irritating he thought she was very attractive as well. After spending a day with her, he pointed out about a dozen instances where he thought she was being “phone as hell”. By the end of their only meeting in the book, Holden says to Sally, “You give me a royal pain in the ass if you want to know the truth.” The real life Oona O’Neil ended up breaking it off with Salinger and married the famous actor, Charlie Chaplin.
Despite Holden being a sixteen year old teenage boy he acts much older than his age. One time in the story he has the chance to be with a prostitute but instead of acting like a pig, he starts to feel sorry for her and instead tried to have a conversation with her. He even offers to pay her for good conversation instead of for sex. He also stays alone in hotels randomly, drinks at bars and clubs often, and even tells people he’s older than he really is. But the reason I find his character mature and intellectual is for other reasons.
Holden does not hold money or material things to be really important. He is more excited to hang out with his kid sister than he is any other time in the entire book. He is content with something that would probably be boring to other guys his age.
Like many teenagers, Holden is often depressed. The way he deals with it most times actually breaks my heart in a way. He likes to talk to his deceased kid brother, Allie. He will take a real event that he can remember where he was talking with him and pretend he is talking to him again. He says, “I started talking out loud to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed.” It is really very heart wrenching to hear Holden talk about his brother. One of my favorite moments in the book is when Holden and Phoebe are talking in Phoebe’s room and she points out that Holden doesn’t like anything. Holden responds quickly by saying, “I like Allie. And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you and talking and thinking about stuff…” Phoebe says to Holden, “Allie’s dead-you always say that! If somebody’s dead and everything, and in heaven then it isn’t really--”. Holden interrupts her with his final comeback, “I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake- especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.”
One of the most beautiful things about ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is the way Salinger uses symbolism. From Holden’s red hunting hat, to Jane Gallagher’s checker playing technique, Salinger wrapped up more than meets the eye into things you never would have dreamed. The main thing that drew me into this story is the realness of Holden’s character. He is a teenage boy with a teenage boy’s mind but seems to have far more common sense than anyone else around him. He is not a jock. He is not a math whiz or a science whiz. He is not really interested in sports. He sort of makes up his own category; a category that I call ‘the genuine’. He is on his own a lot and loves it at first, but happiness and love are meant to be shared with others. It has a much less meaning when by itself and he realizes it by the end of the novel. He is growing intellectually little by little throughout the whole book. He realizes what really makes him happy. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone and everyone who would like to read a story that could possibly change the way they view the world. I have honestly laughed outloud to myself as I read this story. Yes, there is talk about drinking, sex, and lots of cussing, but if you are going to avoid reading this story because of that then your missing out on a beautiful masterpiece.
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Comments (showing 1-17 of 17) (17 new)

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message 1: by Marissa. (new)

Marissa. I couldn't agree more.
What was also very touching was how Phoebe asked him what he wants to be when he grows up, and he responded that he wants to be 'The catcher in the rye'.
i told all of my friends to read it. All of them. All of them, that is, who would care.
nice review. dead on.

Jessica Catcher in the Rye is a wonderful book--Salinger's signature piece if you ask me. It is not a book about everyman or in this case, every teen. Holden is not a caricature but a character--one that many identify with. Taught in high school as a book where Holden was every teen--which I found dull. I re-read it in college and learned the meaning that most appealed to me. Holden is a character--a troubled character and a fascinating one.

I once read some of Salinger's unpublished stories. Very different from Catcher in the Rye and only a little similar to Frankie & Zoey (sp?), these stories were fascinating.

One of the great American writers, Salinger is often ignored. I think that is a shame.

Preb Knudsen Excellent review! Thank you. I've recently started a blog where I was asked about my favourite books. My immediate first choice was Catcher. I read it at just the right age. 16! And was amazed that somebody felt like I did. Working out if people, and oneself, might be genuine, or not. I'm Danish, so read it in my own language. The publisher gave it 'Forbandede ungdom' as a title. Approximately: Youth Be Damned (the tone is to hell with youth!). Way off the Catcher symbolism, but okay. I very much liked your ref to symbols. Brilliant! Never thought of that, but you're so right. I write a bit myself. Novels and stories. Salinger's 9 Stories is a collection I return to now and then - when I want to remember how it can be done. Thanks.

Kassandra Roque I'm in the middle of reading "someday this pain will be useful to you" and it is compaired to "catcher in th rye" i do have to say this has to be a wonderful review. And i plan on reading it next. :)

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I started reading this book the first weekend after my school let out. Between sports and summertime activities, I very nearly forgot about the assignment. My mom had returned it before Id even gotten through the first few pages. Then about a week ago, I checked out the book. I only started reading it yesterday. Im done with the book now. Id never thought I wouldnt finish. But I very much wish that I would have read this book earlier and had time to reread it and reread it over and over ! At first I realy detested the Holden character. I didnt like his way of thinking. I am very social so if youre familiar withthis character you would see why I had a dislike for his thoughts. But when I continued the book a whole summer later, I realized that in many ways Holden is much more advanced than myself. Though I didnt understand him before, and still do not completely agree with what he believes, I fully respect his opinions. He is not ignorant or uncaring as I xid think before. He is a character I would even enjoy meeting. I did some research because I loved the book so well. I realized that the author is very much portrayed in the masterpiece.
I loved this book and its helped me mature in some ways also. If you enjoy Character Changing fiction novels YOUVE GOTTA READ THIS (:

Michelle Great review!

Laurence Mputu I couldn't have described the book better , 7* :) Thanks

Sofie Jukelson Amazing review! Great parallel with author's life! Your comments give a whole new depth to the book. Thank you!

Milana I agree on these every word. I saw Holden developed his personality through the whole book. He was honest, firstly to himself. He was different from teens of his age. As usually teens (especially our-days) pursuing to be"phony", and he didn't want to, and didn't even like. Love it.

message 10: by Dale (new) - rated it 1 star

Dale "Despite Holden being a sixteen year old teenage boy he acts much older than his age."
I'm sorry, but how?
He's pretentious and cynical; neither traits that I would desire for the model citizen.

message 11: by Trent (new)

Trent Norris I totally agree with what you said. Salinger clearly wrote and developed the character of Holden Caulfield in his own image and through Holden's lenses. I found it to be very interesting how Holden's character developed throughout the book to be more understanding of people and accept them.

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.

message 13: by Chinmay (new)

Chinmay Sahoo Agree on most points. Spot on! And a brilliant review, forcing me to follow your reviews!
I think Eliot had said something regarding life: So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

Michelle Manuel Thank you for a great review.

message 15: by Elo (new)

Elo Ikpa Good!!!!

message 16: by Briny (new)

Briny I have a question. you describe Holden as a teller of what is real, and yet he lies constantly during the book. How do you reconcile this with his hatred for all that he sees as phony?

Ronald Wow! Amazing! You wrote what I failed to capture so eloquently well in my own review of J. D. Salinger's fantastic novel! I agree with everything you wrote and it's very true! Salingee did a great job!

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