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The Catcher in the Rye
Author: J. D. Salinger
In this book, the main character, Holden McField, tells
the story about what happened during his Summer vacation.
Holden is a sixteen-year-old boy who has flunked out of a private
prep school. Because he is afraid that his parents would find out
this fact, he goes to a hotel in Las Vegas instead of going home
after he leaves school for Summer vacation. In Las Vegas,
many things happen to him within a few weeks. For example, he goes
to the hotel bar and meets two women after he first arrives
there. The women go away soon after he fails to talk with them,
and Holden feels lonely and depressed. He goes to another bar to
find someone to spend some time with, but he fails to find anyone
to talk to and comes back to the hotel feeling more intent on
finding a woman. In the hotel, he meets a prostitute, but he
sends her back without having sex because he has trouble with his
“clavichord”. He was further disappointed when she tries to rob
him of his money even though he tried to have sex with her. In
the next morning, he has a date with an old girl friend, and asks
her to give him her car so that he can drive to the Ivory Coast.
However, she tells him he is “too cute” and then leaves him.
Holden meets some more people later, but they also cannot solve
his problems, and he feels more and more depressed and lonely. He
finally decides to run away and live as a forest ranger who will
not need to communicate with anyone but the bears. Before leaving,
he goes to say good-bye to his little brother, Jason, who he
admires the most. While talking and playing with him, Holden
changes his mind and decides to rejoin his family and because he
realizes there are many things that he cannot solve by himself,
and he knows that his father can solve everything for him. His
fater, being a casino owner, has taught Holden everything he
knows and can help him out now.
The theme of this novel is how schools are corrupted by
society. Holden thinks everybody who is grown up is immature
because their behavior and advice are all superficial. The title of
this book is based on an old game where someone catches children
from jumping off a field of rye into a pit of spikes. This
symbolizes that Holden wants to be the catcher in the rye because
he wants to protect the small things, especially to prevent small
children from losing their lives and becoming corrupted by school
as they learn about diferent subjects.
Holden Caulfield is an amusing character because he talks
about everyone without any respect, but with much irreverence to
himself. This is shown thorough the language he uses which includes
slang and swear words. Even though Holden believes in the institutions
of society, he is a pessimistic character because he seems to find
something dangerous in almost everything and everyone. For instance,
his old girlfriend Stephanie has a tendency for violence when the
subject of sex is touched upon. He is also a depressed character
because he feels dormant most of the time, and he never finds any
place where he feels comfortable, except for the Cozy Inn. He doesn’t
fit into society because of his profound genious and superfluous
intellect This is shown very well when he says:
“I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game
in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids,
nobody’s around- nobody big, I mean- except the big bully. And I’m
standing on the edge of some crazy pit. What I have to do, I have to
catch everybody if they start to go into the pit- I mean if
they’re running and they don’t look they’re going I have to come
out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d
just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but
that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
This shows Holden’s compassion and sensitivity very well,
but it also shows Salinger’s need to live vicariously through his
characters. Salinger always wanted to use his life to help others
by becoming a doctor, but he was unable to get accepted to medical
school. He was then forced to go into writing, a decision which
his regret can be seen through his works. Salinger seems to be too
good a person to be in this corrupt world, where a selected profession
cannot always be attained.
The style of this book is unusual because it is told by a
sixteen-year-old boy who appears to be sympathetic since he is so
amusing. However, one of the problems with this style is that
some of the things he observes might not be true, but somewhat
exaggerated and fibbed. We are not very sure that he is even
mentally stable since he tells us the story from a maximum security
institution. Despite these things, this style is highly effective
because it get’s the reader to really love Holden and be sympathetic
I liked this book very much because it talks about the
concerns of teenagers who feel the pressures of school. Although
some parts of the message of this book can be dangerous because
they suggest rejecting school and family and friends, it also made me
think about many things filled with the false standards, and I
could find some of the real truths. I also appreciate the way
Holden talks which is very comical even though he’s dealing with
a serious and sad subject of the death of his favorite teacher Mr.
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