Book Review: “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

Always wanted to read this book since I missed it in my high-school reading and I finally did it on my Kindle. The online dictionary came in handy with all the colloquial words used throughout the novel. The title “Catcher in the Rye” interested me. According to some interpretation, it’s about someone who prevents kids from running from the rye field off the cliff, a symbolism of the transition to adulthood from childhood of innocence, kindness, spontaneity, and generosity.

In the three days after Holden Caulfield was expelled from his Pencey school, he got in a fight with his room mate (Stradlater), visited one of his teachers, had a clumsy encounter with a young prostitute – Sunny, met up with his old friend – Sally Hayes, went back to his house to see his young sister Phoebe, met with his ex-teacher – Mr. Antolini – who may have made “flitty” advance on him and remarked “it is the mark of the mature man who wants to live humbly for a cause, rather than die nobly for it.” Afterward, he hung around the city, dropped by museum, and looked for Phoebe. When he found Phoebe, he was surprised to know that Phoebe already packed up to go with him. At this point, he became the responsible adult and squashed her idea and promised to go back home. Phoebe became the catcher and caught Holden from falling off the cliff of adulthood.

Throughout the book, Holden smoked and drank continuously as if this showed how tough and adult he was and yet within him he hated all the phonies of the adult world and clenched to his child-like view of the world or the world it should be. Salinger’s writing style in this book fully reflected the mental state and maturity level of Holden at his age – meaning there was a lot of wining and cussing throughout he book – and who doesn’t at this age.

I find the ending a bit disappointing. Did he turn good and become a model citizen – probably too corny? Did he sink deeper and eventually move himself to a cabin? Probably. It’s left to readers’ imagination.