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Rory Book Discussions > Catcher in the Rye

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message 1: by whichwaydidshego, the sage of sass (new)

whichwaydidshego | 1996 comments Mod
I haven't ever read this so I can't start it out with some witty question. Anyone (who has read it) want to help me out?

message 2: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 197 comments I've read it a few times but I'm fresh out of wit this afternoon-must be the time change!

message 3: by Amira (new)

Amira (liightningbolt) Hmm, I've read it but I have no witty question. Although, I do have a general one. What did you guys think of the ending?

So many people I know thought it was terrible and didn't live up to the potential of the beginning and middle. Personally, I enjoyed it and thought it was a *pretty, light-hearted* change from the rest of the novel.

message 4: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Nov 02, 2008 05:24PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I read it once--20 years ago!

If we discuss the ending, please label it SPOILERS, just to be safe. :)

The only thing that comes to my mind when someone mentions this book, is that the guy (can't think of his name now) who shot John Lennon in NYC was carrying a copy of this book in his jacket that day when he was arrested. So is this somehow a call to anarchy? I guess we shall see. I'm about to begin.

By the way..did you guys notice how many reading lists this was on? The Guardian's 100 greatest...the Modern Library's 100 best...Time magazine's 100 best of the last century. Pretty high expectations to live up to!

message 5: by Dini, the master of meaning (new)

Dini | 691 comments Mod
I read it nearly 10 years ago and remember thinking "What is all this supposed to be about?" Maybe a re-read and discussion will get me an answer ;)

Jamie (The Perpetual Page-Turner) (perpetualpageturner) one of my favorites..can't wait to read it again.

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 03, 2008 08:38AM) (new)

(Contains minor spoilers)

While reading, I immediately, even during the first couple of pages, drew a line from Holden Caulfield to Jess. I guess Rory even called him Holden Caulfield once, but as I did not know the book then, I couldn't make the connection.
The two are very much alike, in my opinion. Both are avid readers but not bookish,they don't work much for school (Jess doesn't finish Stars Hollow High, Holden, as we get to know him, just got kicked out of his most recent school), both are obsessed with a special girl... That's just the parallels that came to my mind now.
Do you agree that they are similar? Maybe Amy even had Holden in mind when creating Jess.

message 8: by Arctic (new)

Arctic | 571 comments Marion, yeah I drew the same connection. :) I was wondering if he was modeled off of Holden too, at least in part if nothing else. Makes me feel better about Jess' character oddly enough.

message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 04, 2008 05:29AM) (new)

The guy who shot John Lennon was Mark David Chapman. I also think of the John Guare play SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION. The transient Paul is talking about CATCHER and a few of his lines really stand out.

It's referred to as a "manifesto of hate."

"The nitwit-Chapman-who shot John Lennon said he did it because he wanted to draw the attention of the world to CATCHER IN THE RYE and the reading of that book would be his defense. And young Hinckley, the whiz kid who shot Reagan and his press secretary, said if you want my defense all you have to do is read CATCHER IN THE RYE. "

"This book is preparing people for bigger moments in their lives than I ever dreamed of. It's a touching story, comic because the boy wants to do so much and can't do anything. Hates all phoniness and only lies to others. Wants everyone to like him, is only hateful, and is completely self-involved. In other words, a pretty accurate picture of male adolescent."

"To face ourselves. That's the hard thing. The imagination. That's God's gift to make the act of self-examination bearable."

message 10: by Kristi (new)

Kristi (kristilarson) I read this book for the first time last December. I wonder why I never had to read it in high school or college. I probably would have liked it a lot if I had read it then, but as a 27-yr-old, I didn't think it was anything special. In fact, I don't even remember the ending. And I really disliked Holden. I kept thinking, "Quit your whining!"

message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Kristi, how interesting that you perceived Holden as whiny. I never thought he was whining, he didn't even complain that much (at least what I remember). He only described his surroundings very detailed - and he mostly didn't like what he saw. As I just said, to me it seemed more like Jess ranting. At times he also hated his life in Stars Hollow, but I would never say he whined.

A very outstanding character for me was Phoebe, Holden's sister. He mentioned her already in the first chapter because she was so important to him and described her as being very mature. When I finally met her during some later chapter, I was astounded how mature she really was. During their conversation she partly was his mother lecturing him, then she was just a friend he could talk to and only in the end some glimpses of the 10-year-old she really is came out.

message 12: by Catie (new)

Catie | 1 comments Mark David Chapman was the name of the guy who shot John Lennon, there is a movie about him called Chapter 27. Jared Leto plays Chapman and did a pretty amazing job. I only was able to catch a little bit of it while it was on HBO, but from what I saw it was extremely interesting.

message 13: by Shari Kim (new)

Shari Kim I read this book in high school, and I loved it. It is perfect for a teenager to read, because it is all about what teenagers go through. The feelings of awkwardness and horrible alienation. Now I work with teenagers, and I am interested in how I'll feel about it now.

message 14: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 100 comments Well I thought that my friends dad had this book so I could borrow it... I was wrong. This means that I now have to go find it. I think I am just going to go buy it...

message 15: by Kristel (last edited Nov 06, 2008 05:00AM) (new)

Kristel | 164 comments Doh, Splendor in the grass is the movie that I saw :( Really, I think there is such a thing like pregnancy dementia...and I obviously am a victim.

Salinger is not that famous an author as he should be in my country. Really strange that those criminals used Catcher in the rye as their defense. Don't know if I am going to read it, maybe if the english copy is available again in the library in a few days from now.

message 16: by Jessica (new)

Jessica | 100 comments Well I found a copy of Catcher in the Rye but it is so old that I have to read it page by page. The pages are all falling out and the only thing holding it together is a rubber band! lol!

message 17: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Nov 08, 2008 06:47PM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
In regard to anyone a "Royal Tennenbaums" fan? Wes Anderson modeled the Tennenbaum children from some of the children in Salinger's novels...they are all very precocious, highly intelligent and creative types. But obviously not without their fair share of tormented psyches.

From wikipedia..."The siblings of the Tenenbaum family are all highly intelligent and disillusioned, struggling with their own identities. They are loosely based on a rabble of similarly disillusioned siblings from the later books of famed author J.D. Salinger. The Glass family, composed of seven child-prodigy-turned-adult-misanthrope characters, is the central subject of three of Salinger's four published books, and form the basis for the quirky and unhappy Tenenbaum family...."

I love this book. Last year I read "The Bell Jar" and I felt like the main character (really Plath in the form of a character) was whiny. She just couldn't get over herself and I couldn't empathize with her. But I really felt like Holden wanted to relate to others. He just couldn't get past all the things about people that bugged him (their phoniness). When he referred to himself as an "idiot" and a "madman"...I really felt that he knew something was wrong about him. It was just outside of his power to change it. I could truly empathize with him. I mean, who hasn't felt misunderstood?

message 18: by Emily (new)

Emily | 40 comments Since I already read Catcher in the Rye I decided to read Nine Stories by JD Salinger instead, and I can totally see the Royal Tenenbaums in that. If you like this one I definitely recommend you read Nine Stories.

message 19: by Katri (new)

Katri (Valancy) | 107 comments I originally wasn't going to read this, because I've just finished my thesis and felt I would not necessarily have the energy to read anything. And I read the book some time in my teen years and don't remember liking it that much. I guess I had rather mixed feelings about it, liked some things but didn't like others. Anyway, somehow I felt like picking it up after all and started reading it today. I seem to be liking it better now than I did back then, but I'm not many chapters into it yet.

I'm reading a Finnish translation because I feel way too lazy to read in English. The translation was done by a celebrated Finnish author in the early 60s and used the slang of Helsinki from that time, so sometimes the language is a bit outdated and I have to puzzle myself with what the expressions mean. It seems some have complained that the translation is inaccurate. And apparently there is a newer translation out but my university library didn't have that, at least not on the shelf. Maybe I need to see if I can find it somewhere else.

message 20: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 09, 2008 07:10AM) (new)

Katri, I guess it doesn't really matter that some of the words in your translation seem outdated. I read it in English and as the novel itself is rather oldish (from the 60s too?) and written in a colloquial style, some of the words used seemed old-fashioned to me, too.
An old translation might just convey the original book's atmosphere better.

(By the way, I am also just about to finish a research paper : ) )

message 21: by Erin (new)

Erin | 76 comments This was my first time reading Catcher, and it surely does live up to its teen angst reputation. But I didn't have much patience for Holden until I started to realize that there was something driving all his anger and frustration. Without giving too much away, I'll just say tht for me, getting to understand that motivation was the most interesting part. Still, it won't wind up on my list of favorite books of all time.

message 22: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Maybe I'm strange -- but having never read this until now, I totally and without equivocation "got" Holden Caulfield -- the whole whining, dumb decision making, rambling (verbally), wandering (physically) and smart mouthed, smart-assed and completely messed up boy/man that he was. This book was stunning. I know it was written long ago but I truly didn't see/feel it's age in very many places nor very long in those places where it did fleetingly seem 'creaky" with the times. I can understand why it still holds its place as a classic of its genre right alongside the newer/later models. I can comprehend the praise, the raves, all of the surrounding atmosphere of it. And, I will -- politely, ever so politely disagree with Erin and say that this old woman of the GGs will likely put Holden's story on the all-time favorites list henceforth. Now that may in part be a reflection on the fact that I am a member of the senior sector here but I'm not so certain that is the only reason I am responding so strongly to this book. And I'm wondering, Erin, if your understanding of the motivation follows my own. Maybe we can get to that later in the discussion after more folks are finished and chiming in here.

message 23: by Arctic (last edited Nov 13, 2008 12:58PM) (new)

Arctic | 571 comments ok. I'm finished and I'm not sure how I feel about The Catcher in the Rye. I think I agree with Erin though. I was unimpressed and mostly uninterested until his "motivation" was discussed near the end. In some ways I think it perfectly captures this transformative time in life. But I hate to think I was ever as obnoxious as Holden. LOL guess maybe that statement alone is all the proof needed though... hmm.

some further comments with POSSIBLE SPOILERS:
What did people think of what they did with Mr. Antonlini? It kind of caught me by surprise, though in some ways I think it may be a brilliant if jarring juxtaposition. if that makes sense. Also, is adulthood really like falling off a cliff?

message 24: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Nov 10, 2008 12:49AM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
Yay! I'm on Team Dottie!

But keep the good feedback coming!

message 25: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 10, 2008 07:36AM) (new)

Yes, I totally understood Holden as well.
His repulsion of "phoniness" is just so comprehensible for me, as is the need to be alone.
I simply liked his whole character and his attitude.


Heather, I also was very surprised by what happened with Mr. Antonlini. I am not even sure if his gesture really was meant the way Holden got it or if that simply was some sort of misunderstanding and it was only his way to express his concern for the boy. He seemed to have liked him genuinely, after all.

message 26: by Arctic (new)

Arctic | 571 comments SPOILERS

Well I figure it's either Holden being his normal flitparanoid self, or it's saying no one is immune to phoniness. Perhaps both.

message 27: by Deborah (new)

Deborah | 283 comments The last time I read this book was in the late 1970s, so I'm looking forward to a reread. My copy is an old pulp edition (love those lurid covers!)that will fall to pieces if I read it, so it's on my library list.

Dottie, your comments really encompassed all my remembered feelings about the book. For me, it also really captured a certain place (New York and suburbs) at a specific time (late 40s early 50s) in an uncanny way. A part of me always sees Manhattan through Holden's eyes.

It would be interesting to know if teenagers reading the book see themselves (or parts of themselves), or do adults respond to it as a sort of prismed look at their youth?

message 28: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments I am re-reading this now, and am up to page 50 and am loving it just as much as the first time I read it. I just feel like I relate so much to Holden. When I am reading his thoughts I just totally think that way sometimes. I will comment more on other people's comments when I get further in the book. I would like to mention though the whole section when he is visiting with his teacher and his teacher reads him his crappy paper. On page 17 Holden is thinking to himself: "I don't think I'll ever forgive him for reading me that crap out loud". Love it! I just love this book.

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Deborah, I am 18 now... so I guess you can still count me as a teenager. I definitely saw myself in Holden. I felt the same way as Angie did, that Holden sometimes thought what I also thought about people. And the whole feeling lost thing is a pretty accurate description of my feelings as well.
So probably it depends on the person. I don't think that people who didn't respond to it in their youth suddenly will when rereading it as an adult.. or that people who don't respond to it at all would have if they had read it as a teenager.

message 30: by Alison, the guru of grace (last edited Nov 13, 2008 11:18AM) (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod

Regarding: Mr. Antonlini: I don't think we'll ever know if what happened with him was REALLY the way Holden thought it to be or's not too long before Holden finds himself in a mental ward, so he's not the most reliable narrarator. Could all be a part of his paranoid, trust/love-no-one-over-the-age-of-twelve mental attitude (as Heather said).

message 31: by Kristel (new)

Kristel | 164 comments I still haven't started reading. Alison, I was intrigued by your comment on comparing Catcher to "the Bell Jar". I thought the main character in that book was whiny too, but somehow that did not bother me. I could empathize with her to some point, although that main character was really locked up in her bell jar and considered other people a nuisance. I look forward to comparing her to Holden...I think it's interesting anyhow.

message 32: by Dini, the master of meaning (new)

Dini | 691 comments Mod
Just borrowed a copy from a friend, gonna start re-reading soon. Holden here I come!

message 33: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments The second time reading this I feel bad for Holden. He is obviously very depressed but yet keeps trying to do things to make himself feel better but he only feels worse.

message 34: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
I have to apologize for my last post, if it contained a bit of a spoiler. What I revealed is actually revealed in the opening paragraphs, but I had intended to label it SPOILER and didn't. I'm sorry!

I think the Bell Jar/Catcher are great stories to compare. Especially since they are male/female perspectives.

message 35: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments Spoilers:

I just finished. One thing that surprised me the second time around reading was that they first time I didn't realize that at the end Holden was in a hospital. I don't know why I guess I just mis-read it.

I thought one of the important characters in the book was Phoebe. I do think Holden was extremely depressed and had it not been for Phoebe would he have had something to live for. He kept looking for friends and meaning in other people, but only Phoebe fit that hole.

I have not seen The Royal Tennenbaums but I have heard about it and seen some clips. I always that it was kinda weird and sad that Owen Wilson kinda became his character in real life.

I didn't really feel like the language was dated... maybe just a little WARNING swear words ahead: for example no one really says christssake anymore but I suppose you could replace it with f^%^?

I really think Holden has mental illness though I couldn't tell exactly what. Depression mixed with anxiety? I think that Mr. Antonlini pushed him over the edge. Anyone would think it is weird if a mentor was petting you while you were sleeping. I don't think Holden was being paranoid. But I do think that was the point of no return, Holden's mind probably snapped at that point putting him in the hospital. I think Holden kept looking in the wrong places for comfort, and this time reading it and last time read it I always think Holden was fine in the future. I just can't help but hope he is.

message 36: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments I just can't help but hope he is.

That sums up my positive response to this book, I believe. It is as simple as that -- the reader cares -- or at least this one (and Angie and others) what happens beyond what we actually know from the book about Holden. We want him to be okay. We want him to be okay because we want ourselves (whatever our problems at that stage -- or at any troubled stage of life) to be okay after the trouble passes. I think that's a big part of this book.

message 37: by Joanie (new)

Joanie | 197 comments I've read this book a few times, the last time was about 5 years ago and I really thought I'd be prepared to participate in this discussion and yet I hardly remember ANYTHING!!! I really think that since I've had my son my memory is shot! Okay-sad little dementia rant aside.

I really did love this book (at least I remember that) and I felt so sad for Holden-I remember feeling the weight of what he's going through while reading. I love Phoebe too, she's an amazing character. I love how much Holden admires her and really likes her as a person, not just his little sister.

The last time I read this was with a mini book club my sisters and I did and I remember my sister-in-law printed out the poem that Holden refers to and brought it with her. I'll have to look it up to see if it sparks my memory.

message 38: by Alison, the guru of grace (new)

Alison | 1282 comments Mod
If only Salinger would give us an update on Holden. It appears that he has written a bunch of stuff only to be released after his death. So...a girl can hope.

message 39: by Arctic (last edited Nov 14, 2008 04:13PM) (new)

Arctic | 571 comments "What really knocks me out is a book, when you're all done reading it, you wished the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it."

ok, I haven't read anything else by Salinger, but I can completely see where you could draw similarities to the Tennenbaums in characterization. good call on that.

and here's something else I've been thinking: so much has been said about identifying with Holden, and him being a great example of the teenage experience. and yet, he is insane. what does it mean to identify with an insane person, or that the universal story of adolescence is rooted in insanity?

The comparison to The Bell Jar is also well made. It's been awhile since I read it, but it seems Esther's descent into depression was more clinical - she made less and less sense as the book progressed. I was left with pity for her, not empathy. but with Holden...maybe Salinger just didn't follow his story that far. or maybe the ambiguity is intentional.

message 40: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Arctic -- what I take it to mean is that though most of the population may not realize or acknowledge it but many of the normal things we humans go through at various life stages can very readily and with little warning tip over the line between acceptable angst and enter insanity. I think much of Holden's trouble lies in the fact that he has not dealt with some of the major events through which he has already passed in his short years -- the death of a brother and how his parents did or did not deal with that in full or allow Holden to do so -- there is a great deal surrounding that which I felt was touched upon but not fully addressed. If that is so -- then many other more ordinary events are questionable in my mind.

It's not hard to trip over that line. In fact in today's world I'd say it is easy to be labeled far too quickly with the pop psych terminology whether or not it fits. At least in Holden's day it took a while to be hospitalized -- probably too much time which is why he was having the problems he was having -- so from Holden to our own it's one extreme to the other. Is it likely to find a mid-point and become truly okay to seek help without concern that one will be overly labeled and overly "helped" by those experts who are in charge? I wonder.

message 41: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments I also think a big difference between today's world and Holden's time is the lack of medicine. Also people who were having anxiety or depression where considered "having a nervous breakdown". Which now might be a panic attack not a break down. I don't really know if the word insane is a word to describe Holden. Insane is a little too extreme for me. I think more like mental illness, which to me is not insane. But then again I just looked up the word insane and it is defined as:
1. not sane; not of sound mind; mentally deranged.
2. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of a person who is mentally deranged: insane actions; an insane asylum.
3. utterly senseless: an insane plan.

So I guess you could use that term to describe him by definition.

message 42: by Erin (new)

Erin | 76 comments SPOILERS

For me, realizing that Holden was still mourning his brother made him a much more sympathetic character. It helped me understand him as more than just a teenager striking a pose. At first his words and actions seemed so random, as though he was so uncaring that he would amuse himself by striking out (verbally, physically) and hurting others.

Remember when he told Mr Antonlini that sometimes the 'tangents' are what you really want to talk about? I think that his tangents -- when he would interupt telling us the who-what-when-where of his day and instead share memories of his family and his brother -- those tangents were what Holden needed to talk about. I don't think he'd had any chance to come to grips with his brother's death. Didn't even get to go to his funeral, I think? I started to think that the way Holden interacted with others was getting to be beyond his control. He was unraveling, and no one recognized it for what it was.

Understanding him a little better made me reflect on the people we come in to contact with whose behavior, words, attitude make them seem to be un-loveable. What might be going on in their life?

message 43: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments Excellent points, Angie and Erin.

message 44: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments Erin said: "Understanding him a little better made me reflect on the people we come in to contact with whose behavior, words, attitude make them seem to be un-loveable. What might be going on in their life? "

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this. I remember when I used to work at Blockbusters at a meeting one time someone said "be sure to smile at everyone who comes in the door, it could be the only smile they see today." It is true you never know what is going on in someone's life so I try to be nice to everyone. I smile, I try to hold doors for my elders. You have no idea what is going on with them, did someone just die, are they suffering from depression?

This brings up another subject kinda off subject, rudeness. Personally I feel people are more rude now then ever before. I go to the library and someone parks in the spot that is designated for people to just drop off books and go, yet they are inside looking at books. Can't walk 20 more steps. I go to the self check out line and there is really someone there with an entire basket full of groceries! People are checking out while on their cell phones chatting away while the cashier is trying to check them out. RUDE! Who holds doors for their elders anymore? I just think we should all take a look at this article for a minute and think about ourselves. Are you rude?

message 45: by [deleted user] (new)


Holden's reason for becoming mentally ill probably was his inability to relate with people.
Maybe that is a very personal perception, but in my eyes, Holden was a extremely sensitive and intelligent boy, despite his failures in school.
He only didn't know where he belonged. When he would have needed a stable environment, friends and family he could count on, his parents sent him off to school. His dealing with his brother's death - smashing all the garage windows - only led to punishment and not to consolation or help.
When he left his last school, he didn't run away but returned in his home town. To me, it seemed as if he was looking for stability.
His parents could not provide it and he somehow realized that it was too much pressure on his sister, so he went to his teacher. At first, it felt as if he had arrived somewhere, but then, Mr. Antonlini crosses a line and becomes too personal, just then, when Holden would have needed some rest.
So Holden is forced to go out again, forced to be on his own some more, and that's when his breakdown occurs. (In the zoo, another image of stability as it is a "family thing" to go to the zoo together and be happy)
Holden never found anyone he could really relate with. All his friends were too same and grown-ups didn't really try to reach out to him.

I couldn't even name Holden's mental illness - I'd say he was too lonely.

By the way, does anyone know what his illness really was?

message 46: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments So I googled if Holden has mental illness and I guess that is a big debate. People even write thesis papers on this. Does he have mental illness or is he just a normal teen is the question I found over and over.

message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Hmm, ok.. I thought it was a "fact" that he had a mental illness because he was in a ward or in an asylum at the end...

message 48: by Angie (new)

Angie | 512 comments Yea that is kind of weird that people debate over it.

message 49: by Dottie (new)

Dottie (oxymoronid) | 698 comments I can see the debate given that our ideas of "insane" have definitely change drastically over time. Women in the past who were menopausal were frequently institutionalized as having nervous breakdowns, for example. Nowadays it's taken as normal hormonal change and pills are administered for the various symptomatic aspects. They don't put the woman in an asylum or the county "loony bin" as those institutions were once labeled. Argh.

The same is true of adolescents now -- those whose adjustment to the physical and other changes of adulthood but not adulthood -- "teens" in other words -- is not reasonably smooth are counseled, medicated, and so on. If Holden were going through all of the things he went through today, he would have had even more counseling and attention than he had in the story -- far more. I doubt he would have been put into an institution but he might have been. Plenty of such facilities exist and are shelter for teens who are not coping with their lives.

I think the disconnect here is the time-frame of the story -- -- the 1940's and 1950's decades which are the background of the characters and their lives. Mental illness then is not mental illness now necessarily.

message 50: by [deleted user] (last edited Nov 17, 2008 10:24AM) (new)

That's indeed an interesting aspect, Dottie. You made me wonder how much Holden would be seen as a "difficult" teen today.
I personally know many people who find it much more difficult to cope than he does and they are still only labeled as difficult and no one thinks they are mentally deranged - they just have to "grow up".

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