Day 32: Read “The Catcher In The Rye”

Wow. I just spent the last 4 hours in the brain of a selfish, hypocritical, rebellious teenager. His name is Holden Caulfield, and he is the protagonist of the Catcher in the Rye written by J. D. Salinger. This book is considered a classic. It was obsessed over in the ’50s and although the plot seemed slightly removed from me, I put it on my ‘to-read’ list, determined to someday be familiar with the acclaimed story that was behind the unusual title.

Well, I’ve read it. And I must say, I haven’t the faintest idea as to why it was ever given the high regards that  it received. If I am going to have to read 280-some pages full of excruciatingly-detailed personal profiles and endless stories of a teenage boy’s relationships with those profiled, it had better be narrated with some positivity, excitement or flair. Unfortunately for me, Holden Caulfield is full of anything but positive thought and flair. In fact, the moment he starts telling the reader of something or someone he actually does enjoy, he ruins the almost-pleasant picture by finding some aspect of the subject that, in his own words, “depresses” him. Why anybody would want to follow the exact thought processes of a depressing and opinionated, rebellious teenager is beyond me.

Holden begins his story to the reader on the day he is leaving Pencey Prep, a school that he is certainly not a fan of (because of course liking anything would be a sin). Having been kicked out of Pencey, Holden is set to return home  in a few days, however, due to his own brought-upon circumstance,  he flees from the school that night and heads to his home city, the Big Apple. Up to this point, I found myself having some respect and attraction towards the character, but any bit of fondness I felt was soon stripped away.  What enfolds on the next 200-some pages is his 3-day journey in New York City, putting off his return to his family until his expected day of arrival. It is during this journey that you see Holden for what he really is: a selfish, hypocritical, cigarette-smoking adolescent that is trying to be a man when, in reality, is only an insecure and lost boy. Reading about this boy’s thoughts and actions as he interacted with very odd and distinct characters soon turned my fondness into disapproval, and my disapproval into pity.

I’m sure that by now,  if you are a loyal reader of this blog, you know that I love to read. I can sit for hours immersed in a good book. I was actually excited to finally sit down and read a classic, something I haven’t done in a while. I only wish I had picked one that was more enjoyable. That had more of a climatic plot line. Maybe something that isn’t narrated by a young boy. Reading should be enjoyable, and yet, when I was reading this book, I felt like I was back 7 years ago in time, forcing myself to finish a drab book that I was going to be tested on the next day in my high school English class. It was painful.

At the end of it, all I can say is that at least I have accomplished one goal. I now know the famous story behind this famous title, and although The Catcher in the Rye is not one I would recommend, I will say this: It will certainly give you an appreciation for your own life and will definitely give you something to look forward to: the end of the book.

 

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4 Comments on “Day 32: Read “The Catcher In The Rye””

  1. Nell Ruch Says:

    Sarah, when our “kids” were in high school in Delaware I STRONGLY objected to their requirement to read such dark and disturbing literature. They were already having difficult waves of emotions and insecurities with which to deal…why “pile on” with some heavy stuff. But the practice continued, I’m sure. College is soon enough to deal with literature like this.

  2. Susanna Says:

    Good work Sarah!

  3. Mark Evans Says:

    To SS,
    Your reasonings for dis-liking Catcher in the Rye are really dangerous. You critique Holden Caufield for not liking anything because he believes that “liking anything would be a sin” and then you dislike the book. “I only wish I had picked one that was more enjoyable. That had more of a climatic plot line. Maybe something that isn’t narrated by a young boy. Reading should be enjoyable,”. First of enjoyability is in the eyes of the beholder. Value and goodness can be qualified but enjoyability is completely subjective. You may not have enjoyed the book but the book is without doubt…very good. Since it was printed, this novel has sold more than 65 million copies.

    Let’s look a little deeper. Has Salinger captured the thinking of male post adolescence? Is the book an accurate description of a boy becoming a man? Isn’t art with staying power an accurate portrayal of real life? “Yellow Submarine” by the Beatles doesn’t have the classic feel of “Yesterday”. This book isn’t some romantic comedy/action film/fantasy adventure, this is a kid growing up and that is not always enjoyable. It’s actually painful. My suggestion is that on day 39 you read Catcher in the Rye, again. I’m dead serious.
    Sincerely,
    The Coopersburg Catcher
    Mark Evans

    • Sarah Sullivan Says:

      You bring up a good point in your first paragraph, mark. Enjoyability is in the eye of the beholder. Which is why in my blog post, I said that I didn’t like, I didn’t enjoy it, and I didn’t think it was a good book.
      When I came to your second paragraph I again will admit you bring up a good point.
      So basically what it comes down to is that you like the book and think it is great. And I don’t. So for you, it might really be a great book. But I won’t agree.
      So no, I’m not reading again (I have no problem reading books more than once to try to understand them better- I do it alot, but this particular book also had a lot of language and negativity that I’d rather not have to read through again).
      But, I will take any suggestions you have for other classic books that I can read on later days.
      And I think you have named yourself quite appropriately, Mark. You are a catcher for God, on a quest to catch the unsaved in Coopersburg for His Kingdom.
      I think that’s the only part of your comment that I will remember after this moment :)
      Thanks though for the feedback. I’ll make sure that I keep my mind more neutral when reading “great” books in the future.


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