The Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye question

An important thing to consider?
Demetrius Sherman Demetrius May 19, 2018 08:18PM
Is one reason why some people don't like this book because they fail to consider the time period?
There were movies, comics and books which made being a teenager a happy big joke. They have no real problems. Finally, Catcher in the Rye comes along and a teenager is suffering and the world isn't pretty. That reality, that honesty, is what attracts readers to this book. Whether you like or dislike Holden may not be important. But a book showing how hard it is for some to fit in, is a real problem today, which is a theme of the book.
And being upset about what is going on in the world is not something only Holden feels.
Compare Holden to James Dean in Rebel without a Cause and East of Eden. Popular because it showed a more realistic teen age world and a more real world itself.

Monty J (last edited Aug 28, 2018 10:18PM ) May 20, 2018 09:30AM   1 vote
Demetrius wrote: "Is one reason why some people don't like this book because they fail to consider the time period?
There were movies, comics and books which made being a teenager a happy big joke. They have no real..."

TiCR is naked realism, and people don't like being reminded of real problems. They like being distracted from them. Hence we have sitcoms, game shows, so-called "reality" TV, and sports, sports, sports.

Who wants to be reminded of the time when they misbehaved or did something embarrassing like flunking an exam; getting kicked off a sports team for leaving the equipment on a train; getting drunk and calling a girl with a bad reputation hoping to get laid and getting turned down; getting caught lying about their age to buy alcohol and then getting stuck with the bill for drinks by a group of older women tourists you danced with; or walking around town feeling lonely and depressed; hiring a child prostitute just talk and then getting punched by her pimp who jacked up the price: And how about getting your nose bloodied in a fight with your egotistical roommate (Stradlater) because you think he sexually abused one of your women friends? Who wants to have a mirror held up so they can see themselves behaving badly?

Holden tells naked upper middle-class urban life for a teenage boy who's struggling, and failing, to cope with the deaths of a former dorm mate and his younger brother.

Demetrius wrote: "...showing how hard it is for some to fit in, is a real problem today, which is a theme of the book."

Holden doesn't give a hoot about fitting in with his teenage peers. He's outgrown suitemates Stradlater and Ackley and girlfriend Sally Hayes and the creeps who stole from him and the ones who bullied James Castle into committing suicide. He's ready to move on, but where? Holden is like the pond "half-frozen, half-not frozen, " stuck in a zone of discomfort and incompletion. Limbo. Even a former teacher lets him down, or so he thinks.

The source of Holden's unhappiness is his 'tween status, stuck between adolescence and adulthood. His disaffection with his former peer group results in his groping for a place/identity among adults. He is unwittingly on an exploration among adults for identity. Having rejected his former place among the students at Pencey and not yet found a comfortable place among adults, he feels lonely, stuck in a "twilight zone."

One thing he cherishes over everything else is innocence, and that's what saves him--coming home to his adoring, brilliant, optimistic, unsoiled little sister, Phoebe. And she rescues him, reassures him of his value to her with her non-judgmental loyalty and love.

I don't know why the fans of a book insist people don't like it because they don't "get" it. Not every major work is everyone's cup of tea.

Gary I could explain, but you wouldn't get it. ;-) ...more
May 30, 2018 01:40PM · flag
Monty J Heying :)
Aug 27, 2018 07:47PM · flag

This is my favorite novel of all time! I first read it about 25 years ago while a teen and have probably re-read it a dozen times since. Although the story was set in the 1950s, I believe Holden's plight and unease with grappling with adulthood to be timeless. He hates phonies. He sees through posers. He is far advanced for his years in this regard, thus he had a very difficult time. He is not arrogant and whiny like some say...he knows full well he has problems and is a misfit. He could written Radioheads Creep! LOL

Gary (last edited May 20, 2018 09:36AM ) May 20, 2018 07:04AM   0 votes
It's a valid point. The Catcher in the Rye was written/published smack dab in the middle of what we might call "The Howdy Doody Era" and it was very much a counter-culture piece of work, even if the counter-culture elements were presented somewhat surreptitiously, and it's hard to really understand the book without understanding the time/place it was published.

I'd argue, however, that things haven't changed much. If one looks at a list of TV shows being broadcast in 1951-2 when TCitR was published

there's not a lot of substance there, but that remains the case: talent shows, game shows and family sitcoms. TV looks much the same now. There are, of course, some amazingly good programs on TV these days, but the vast majority of it is mind-numbing crap—not that that's a particularly new or original observation. I had to visit a hospital waiting room a few months back and there was a TV on with "The Price is Right" playing, and I saw that that program had not changed hardly since I first saw it in the 70s. The people in the waiting room were staring at the set and from time to time they would chuckle and comment to each other about what they saw there like they were sitting on their own worn couches at home. These are people with family members under the knife. It was more than a little surreal.

My point is that the folks who don't like the book for its provocation and counter-culture aspects probably wouldn't have liked it when it was published. People need some sort of sugar on top to swallow bitter pills. So, for instance, I like James Dean, and I think he was a talented actor, particularly for the time, but he was also a very pretty young man. I suspect that's a good amount of how he was able to sneak his talent into the mix.

Holden isn't presented as pretty, and though he has a cushy life in many respects, he's exposed to the underbelly of that life. It is his presentation of that underbelly that seems to trouble a lot of readers, and there's not a lot for them to hide behind. No pretty James Dean. No sassy best friend or wise-cracking maid to exclaim, "Oh, Mr. Holden, you scamp!" or whatever. Many readers want to "like" the protagonist, and the way I've heard it described is that they want to have a kind of surrogate friendship. They want to read about someone with whom they can be pals. That's fine, I guess. Presumably, they could just watch Leave it to Beaver instead.

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