|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Length: 214 pages
Start Date: Sometime in 2007-8
Finished Date: Sometime in 2007-8
Where Found: Used bookstore
Why Read: It is on most "must-read" lists and I have always been curious about it.
Summary: A rebellious, expelled student spends 3 days in the city, evaluating the wrongdoings of his education and society in general through a random, stream-of-consciousness style.
If you haven’t read this book, you’re probably wondering what all the hype is about. If you have read it, you may have concluded that it was one of the greatest books ever written or you just can’t understand its place in the literary canon of greatest books ever. Sounds like a case of polar opposite views on one of the most considered books ever written. My take on The Catcher in the Rye is that it’s a very good book but as for its place as one of the greatest books ever written is difficult to determine.
One reason is that it’s very hard to recall the plot of this book and that is one of its primary flaws. It doesn’t really have one. The book’s main strength is its language, both the bitterness of Holden’s voice and the rare, small beauties he finds in his idle trek to find a deeper perspective than his education has allowed. Holden’s relationship with his sister Phoebe is beautifully rendered—you sympathize with his protectiveness of her and his determination to give her a better outlook on life than he has for himself.
Holden is relentlessly moody, stumbling through life because he finds very little purpose in it. He admires Phoebe because she is still very young and still has time to spare before the burdens of responsibility Holden feels are placed on her shoulders as well. He admires a teacher whose intentions may not be entirely honourable. Trust is a central theme in the novel that may ring familiar from Shakespeare’s Hamlet and recognizable in the film Good Will Hunting—the main characters have little sense of self, an unwillingness to accept change, and difficulty forming relationships with others. It’s a timeless, never-ending motif that resolves itself only through maturation of its characters. Does that happen with Holden? It remains a debatable topic, but in my opinion, is inconclusive.
If this sounds confusing, the best advice I can offer is read it and see for yourself. It is certainly worth reading though for a book long held up on a pedestal, it is not without its flaws.
Rank: (A)- Excellent, highly recommend