The Catcher in the Rye The Catcher in the Rye discussion

Are We Too Old for Catcher in the Rye?

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message 1: by Eric_W (last edited Jan 03, 2014 03:32PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Eric_W I'm curious how many of us read Catcher in the Rye in high school or at least before age 25 and then reread it after age 50. Did your opinion of the book change? Mine did. In high school: great book. Old guy: don't waste your time.

message 2: by Joshua Nomen-Mutatio (last edited Jan 27, 2009 08:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio I haven't reread it since highschool. I think I read it twice between about age 13 and 16 or so. I can't imagine it would do much for me now other than conjure up sentimentality, which isn't necessarily a good or bad thing, it depends on a lot of factors, I guess. Anyway, I would still recommend the book to teenagers as something they'd probably enjoy. When my children (if I have them) reach certain age I hope they'll find it on a dusty library shelf and soothe their angst and anxieties about shedding the innocence of childhood, etc. Of course if I recommend it to them this probably would backfire and they'd find it antiquated and stupid because an Authority recommended it and so forth.

In short, I understand why it's still so appealing to people in a certain age bracket and wouldn't want to disparage this as an old-timer. I know it wasn't a waste of time for me when I read it, that's for sure.

Sharon I've read catcher in the rye every year since I was 16. I'm only 22 now and hope that by the time I'm 50 the book only becomes richer and full of more meaning. I know that is what is does for me thus far, as my percpective and life changes I see the book in a whole ner light. I can't really say what it will do for me later in my life but, life I said, i hope it only gets better.

Kandice I read it when I was 12. I liked it, but it wasn't my favorite. I re-read it just last year and wouldn't want to do so again. I'm not quite 50, but I don't see liking it any better as the years go by. My almost 16 year old loves it.
I think I was too young to get it, my son is the perfect age, and now I am too mature to enjoy it. It's definitely all about age appropriateness for this book. (in my opinion)

message 5: by Meh (new) - rated it 3 stars

Meh Eh. I read it when I was 16, and thought it was interesting. Definitely a bit too angsty, but still worth the read. I liked the writing style. We'll see what I think in a bit. Maybe you get less jaded as you get older.

J.G. Keely Less jaded as we get older? That's a new one. I thought we just got so jaded that we became skeptical of being jaded.

I read this book when I was 17 or so and didn't find much to connect with. It was a quick read, but I didn't find Holden sympathetic, nor did I get any vicarious thrill from his pointless rebellion. Maybe if he had been a sexy bisexual like James Dean. Less angst, more cool.

I was also annoyed at the title and the weird dream that accompanied it. It seemed like Salinger was trying too hard to be 'deep'.

Haven't read it since, though.

message 7: by Deb (new) - rated it 1 star

Deb Never read it in high school. When my daughter had to read it in high school she complained it was the worst book she has ever read (she is quite the reader). I couldn't believe it because I had heard so many people say this is their very top book. So I decided to read it. I totally agree with her. Did not like it at all.

Heather steff I Wondered what all the hype was about this book, since it is consistently listed on the "tops" of many lists. So, I read it for the first time at age 40(2 years ago), and thought "what the crap"??? I can see how this might have been sensational 50 years ago, but ask any teen to read it now and they would probably fall asleep. Or better yet, they would tell Holden where to "get off".I would not consider this a "classic" to stand the test of time. I think it is passe.

Laura I really think that it depends on where you are in your life when you read it for the first time.
It's one I missed in high school and was assigned to read it as an undergrad in a "Teaching Literature" class for pre-service English teachers. I was 23, married, had a 4 month old, and was trying to balance all my life roles without going under. I thought Holden was a whiny, self-absorbed, spoiled little rich kid, and I spent most of the book wanting to shake some sense into him. However, I've had a lot of students who read it in high school and loved it.
My friend's daughter is 17 and may be reading it for her American Lit class. I told her that I despised it and had found some of the content objectionable, but that it was one she would really have to make her own mind up about. I'm interested to see how it works out for her.

Peachy Didn't like it then, don't like it now.

message 11: by Eric (new) - rated it 1 star

Eric I read this for the first time a few years ago (in my thirties) realizing full well that I was not it's intended audience, but I still don't think that I would have liked it in high school or younger. This book seems to speak to a certain generation and may have been more relevant when it was first published. Holden seemed like a ridiculous whiner to me and I don't think that he is so relatable to us today who tend to be jaded at such a younger age.

uh8myzen I think there is much to be taken away from this book at any age, and I am not sure that it is his personality or his words that are so important.

I think it is his sense of alienation and his sense of social incongruity that he drives him and the narrative as a whole. While the young may have a stronger sense of it, even adults can suffer this at one time or another. Holden's narrative amplifies it for dramatic effect.

Houry I read it when I was in my early 20s and loved it. I am now 42 and have heard that re-reading it is going to make my rethink about my POV.

It makes sense. Holden is a young adult who is alienated and alone in the world as most (some?) young adults feel. I think as we age and life doesn't feel as dramatic and hard to navigate through, we forget the struggle of that time in our lives. So when we re-read books that made an impact on us then, and come out of it thinking "why did I like this?" It's just a natural response. Maybe.

I would like to re-read it but I don't want to not like it anymore.

message 14: by Cyn (new) - rated it 2 stars

Cyn Bagley I read it after the age 38 and was not impressed. I guess it really showed how I might have been like at 16 - quite self-centered and possibly spoiled?

Vanessa Interesting question... I read the book when I was 14 or 15 and loved it. I've only read it three times in the past ten years and I'm planning on rereading it by the end of summer. I think the last time I read it I was still in my teens, so I'll see if I still like it in my mid-20s.

Jan C I was 13 the first time - it probably helped that it was highly recommended by my best friend. I think to an extent I may have thought so what. But one the other hand, if my friend loved it then there must be something to it. We both went on to read all the other books by Salinger. I think I read it the first time in an afternoon or so.

In my late 50s I picked it up again. It took me 3 years to plow my way through it. And all I could think, through most of it, was "what a jerk".

But I think towards the end, I started remembering some of the reasons why I liked it before. In 1963, it was a very important book to us. Not so much in 2010.

I would still recommend it to young people - they are the chosen audience. They are the ones Salinger is talking to.

message 17: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Stipa I read it in HS because I had to. I re-read it a few years ago and now at 50 still can't take away any kind of meaning or remember any connection to any character. But I don't agree that we're too old for any book. A good story will always be a good story.

message 18: by Mimi (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mimi I thought this was the all time greatest book when in high school - read all of Salinger but thought Catcher the best. Re-read after 50 and though poor Holden was a crazy, mixed up teenager. Definitely agree that there is a critical age where certain teens identify and think Holden is sensitive and mis-understood.

message 19: by Chris (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris Stanley Are We Too Old for Catcher in the Rye?
My answer is a big YES.
I read this last year at fortysomething and thought is was the biggest pile of old toott going. My 16 year old daughter (now 17) thought it was fabulous and handed the book around her friends. Each of them loved it too!!

Brian I must have a youthful mind because I didn't read it until I was in my 40s and I still love it now.

Bryon Carter Honestly, I think the only reason this book gets so much attention is because it's required reading at so many schools. I know that's pretty harsh, but it's my honest opinion.

Vanessa I think I was too old when I read it the first time at 30. The main character just sounded like a spoilt little turd. I think I might have gotten more out of it if I'd read it at the age of 14.

message 23: by Nate (new) - rated it 3 stars

Nate I read it at 17 and 34. Loved it at first, despised it on the reread. I read Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky at the same time to compare the two very comparable books and found that, as an adult, Perks came across as more relatable to me. Anyone else read Perks?

message 24: by Chris (new) - rated it 1 star

Chris Stanley Vanessa wrote: "I think I was too old when I read it the first time at 30. The main character just sounded like a spoilt little turd. I think I might have gotten more out of it if I'd read it at the age of 14."

I love your description of Holden!

message 25: by Kiki (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kiki Hiroku no we r not too old for it

Kevin You shouldn't have to be a teenager to appreciate the rich insight into Holden Caufield's mind any more than you have to be a pig to appreciate Animal Farm, wear a straight-jacket to appreciate One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, or have big, hairy feet to enjoy The Hobbit.

While I can understand not everyone enjoying the story, Salinger did a better job developing Holden as a real person than any other writer I've read.

message 27: by Charles (new) - added it

Charles Harvey I haven't read it yet and I'm 50 something. Sometimes my 19 year old alter ego kicks in. That may be a good time to read it. But I see nothing wrong with reading things from our youth. If it was a good book, it might still teach us a thing or two or you might have an ah ha moment. Although I probably wouldn't go back and reread the Bobbsey Twins.

Jan C Charles wrote: "I haven't read it yet and I'm 50 something. Sometimes my 19 year old alter ego kicks in. That may be a good time to read it. But I see nothing wrong with reading things from our youth. If it was a ..."

You may enjoy it perfectly well. I think I was just making the point that you don't read books the same at 50+ as you did if you read it when you were 13-14, which was when I read this.

At that age, I devoured it. Now it took me a couple of years to read it. It didn't have the same importance to me.

message 29: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark I mean as little offense as possible (I can't in all good conscience say NO offense), but it seems to me like anyone who liked Catcher as a teenager and suddenly despises it as an adult must be a terribly superficial reader, and quite possibly totally out of touch with their own emotions--a "phony" of the most despicable order, to use Holden's own term.
If you can remember what it felt like to be able to relate to Holden--whether you actually read the book when you were that age or not--you cannot deny the value of this book. Great literature doesn't have to take place on the stage of heroes and villains, and we don't have to ultimately agree with Holden's outlook to empathize with him, all we have to do is try to remember the terror that was adolescence, and every uncomfortable truth that came along with it: the naivette, the growing responsibility (and the total inability to handle it in the beginning), the egotism, the out and out fear.
It's my pet theory that anyone who claims to hate this book or not to "get" it is simply afraid of seeing Holden's faults in themselves, which, quite frankly, makes them just as incapable and immature as Holden himself (not that there's anything wrong with that!) (We all know that if Holden were real, he would probably hate Catcher in the Rye and think the main character was a moron)

Jan C Mark wrote: "I mean as little offense as possible (I can't in all good conscience say NO offense), but it seems to me like anyone who liked Catcher as a teenager and suddenly despises it as an adult must be a t..."

Not sure if you are directing this at me or not (you didn't use reply). If so, I don't recall saying I despised it, merely that it doesn't have the same effect at 60 as it did at 13. And anyone who thinks they read books the same 40 years later needs to try re-reading the books they read and enjoyed 30-40 years ago.

I don't know if I would even like The Cat in the Hat the same way now as I did when I was young. You can still enjoy books for their own sake, just not in the same way. Or else there was no maturation at all in the intervening years.

I recently re-read Frannie and Zooey. It took a while for me to get into it this time. But I saw it from a different point of view. The first time I assume that I identified more with the youths in the book. This time I was more with the mother. Time just, hopefully, helps one see things from a different point of view.

Gregory Rothbard Good literature should be able to grow with us. For want of a better example viewing the Breakfast Club was this type of experience. I remember watching the Breakfast Club when I was younger than a high school and thinking, "Wow I can't wait till I get old enough to be a high-schooler." Then I watched it in High school and thought, "Wow these guys are stupid, but fun definitely fun." Then I watched it when I had graduated from College and was working on a teacher certificate, and thinking these kids would be a pain in my ass. Good writing be it presented in movies or books should change and still be interesting as we age.

message 32: by Abby (new) - rated it 1 star

Abby Fick I'm late 30's and tried to read it for the first time last year. I don't think I made it past 25 pages.

Priya Murali No one is too old to read Catcher in the Rye.Holden Caulfield is a character, whose typical teenage mentality and thinking can be related to and understood by many.The teenage phase is a unforgettably important phase for almost everyone.

Michelle i've read the catcher in the rye 3 times so far and i'm far from getting tired of it. although i do not relate to the character as much as i used to, i believe it's the kind of book that has a certain depth to it and that can fascinate at any age as long as one is open-minded.

message 35: by Gregory (last edited Jun 06, 2011 02:12PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Gregory Fournier This novel speaks to the outcast in all of us. Holden Caulfield's ritualistic defiance of authority mimics the subjective angst and disgust many people feel about the phoney world we see around us.

The individual is powerless to do anything about it. The adolescent desire for wish fulfillment by proxy is typical of disconnected and disenfranchised people. This is what disturbs many adult readers when they read it later in life.

Holden is ahead of his time. Born twenty years later, he would have become a goth and we would have been done with him.

message 36: by Dors (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dors Not yet 30's but past 20's and still cannot say it is a waste of time. I like the writing style and in my opinion a good story is always a good story it doesn't have to be related with the age you are living but the perspective you get into while reading.

Bryon Carter I would rather read portrait of an artist as a young man.

Cheryl A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is defined as another classic, of course. Maybe somebody who has read and appreciated both books can compare them for us?

message 39: by Mark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mark Gregory wrote: "This novel speaks to the outcast in all of us. Holden Caulfield's ritualistic defiance of authority mimics the subjective angst and disgust many people feel about the phoney world we see around us...."

I realize you agree with my point of view, but I think your last comment really summarizes the general POV of those who insist the book lacks merit, and as such, I have to disagree with it.
If we think Holden was merely groundbreaking, was just the archetype for teen rebellion as it developed in later decades, we do him a disservice, because, yes, that means he *would* be little more than some antisocial mallgoth these days. The fact of the matter is that Holden is more than pre-packaged rebellion. Holden doesn't *want* to be who he is, and he isn't just whining to get attention or to feel better than his peers or even authority figures. Holden is reluctantly compelled into the character portrayed in the novel. His desperate fear of disappearing, of having nowhere left to fit in--rather than attention-seeking--is what compells his more outlandish behavior. Plus, far from being rebellious, he's actually quite a cautious, timid person on the inside. He wants to save children from all the "fuck you"s and the cliffs in the rye fields. He has a naivety about him that, far from groundbreaking, was probably a dying trend among teens in the 50s and 60s.
So, no, I don't think Holden would be a mall goth today. If anything, he'd decry them just as phony as anybody else, with their pejorative attitudes and storebought identity. Holden was an individual who started to fear that there was no place for individuality anymore; the most offensive thing we could do would be to brand him as just another goth or just another disaffected teen. Maybe the fact that that's all we have these days to compare him to is a warning that he may have been right.

Eric_W He wants to save children from all the "fuck you"s and the cliffs in the rye fields. He has a naivety about him that, far from groundbreaking, was probably a dying trend among teens in the 50s and 60s.

At the risk of being flamed, I suggest that's precisely how all of us viewed the book when we were your age. The question at hand is whether, as we grow older and have a different perspective, we see things differently, i.e., there is no cliff. The fact that Salinger never wrote much after Catcher, makes one wonder if he realized that too.

I don't think it was a dying trend in the fifties and sixties at all and that the book still speaks to readers of your age is a testament to to its greatness. That it no longer speaks to those who have lived past 5 decades does not detract from that.

Casey I read it as a 15 year old and thought it was a pretty darn good book... I re-read it this year at age 24 and I can not for the life of me remember why I thought it was so good. definitely seems like it must be an age related thing.

message 42: by Aleks (new) - rated it 1 star

Aleks The only time I read this book was when I was 20, and I thought it was horrible. The main character is so obnoxious. HE made me sooo mad. The guy is so immature! I will never read this book again and will not let my children read it!

I just finished it because I don't like to leave things undone, in this case unread XD.

Steven you probably wouldn't be discussing it right now if it didn't tweak a nerve. To me, it represents that period of development when we all feel like geeks. high school, college... we all want to "fit in". we just don't know what we want to fit into.

Liane During high school I didn't get a chance to read this book, but now that i'm 23 i decided to give it a try and i think that the book is recommended for teens or young adults.

Holden was a typical teenager trying to find his true self at the same time trying to fit in this world.

Holden the main character is totally lost in terms of self value and his own perspective. Holden impulsively decided on whatever he feels like, not really thinking things through. and that causes trouble for himself. which is normally what teenagers are nowadays.

To answer your question, i felt like i was too old for the book. hihihi :)

Cindy Frisbie Never too old for Holden C!

message 46: by Kurt (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kurt Reichenbaugh Read it when I was 16 and loved it. Read it again in my 30's (same copy, with my 16 year old notes in it for school) and still admired it. I'm looking at 50 in a few years and it's still on my shelf, along with other books like Gatsby and Clockwork Orange from that time in my life, to name a few. One is never too old for a book that connects with them.

Robin I may find it different since I read it in high school, but also have read numerous other books notwithstanding. Catcher was not a memorable book for me. I could not get what he was whining about, he had private school, etc. I could not relate to the character.

Scott I loved this book in junior high school (it was not required reading) but haven't re-read it, although I keep telling myself I will someday. I'm 40 now and I'm not sure I'd feel any differently about it. I haven't changed much, and the world sure hasn't.

Robin I saw a copy of this book and although I would have bought it, I put it back. Who needs whining at my advanced age as well.

Falynn LOVED this book in high school. I decided to read it again at 26 and still love it. I can understand why some people don't "get it," I suppose it's just a matter of taste.

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