[Writer Note: This is a special post for this month since today is my birthday! I wrote this post a week ahead of time to make sure it was ready for today. <3)
Welcome back to the What Are You Reading? Series! If you have no idea what’s going on feel free to take a look at the introductory post. Don’t forget at the end of the post to let me know your own thoughts and interpretations of the book. [Please note that if you haven’t commented before I recommend reading the Commenting Guidelines.]
And today’s book is……. *Drum roll*
Catcher in the Rye
Author: J.D. Salinger
Genre: Literary Fiction
Originally Published: 1945
This book has been considered as one of the hardest books to analyze. So much so that there is a scholarship attached to it. I do remember there being an essay contest where you had to read the book an attempt to analyze it but I cannot find it now. That may be the reason behind it’s fame. It’s indecipherable. So here’s my go at it.
Holden Caulfield has always had a disagreement with school. Our story begins with him getting kicked out once again for failing multiple classes, except English. When he gets back to the dorm to begin packing his things, his roommate asks Holden to write his paper for him while he goes on a date. For the paper, Holden writes about his little brother who died three years before our story, and his reaction to his brother’s death. After a scuffle with his roommate, now returned from his date, Holden decides to leave the school for New York before his parents are notified of his expulsion.
Once he gets to New York, he goes to a place called Ernie’s, where he is able to drink (despite the fact that he is still a minor) and ends up picking up a prostitute. Though nothing happens between them, Holden still ends up with no money and a good hit in the stomach.
The next day he meets up with his old friend Sally Hayes, and tries to convince her to run away with him, but she turns him down and he is alone again. He tries to deal with being alone by asking another friend to meet him for drinks and attempts to pick up another girl. When he ends up alone again, he decides to visit his sister, who to him is the best girl in the world.
Phoebe is the first to bring up the thought that Holden is suffering from depression, and when he decides that he wants to runaway tries to go with him. When he tells her that she can’t she just gives up and says that she wont talk to him anymore. This causes him to give in, since he couldn’t handle her being mad at him, and take her to the zoo while promising that he wont run away after all. Watching his sister play on the carousel gets him to find a moment of happiness.
My First Thoughts
TANGENTS! SO MANY TANGENTS! And I thought my thought process was bad. I can understand why it is so hard to read. The narrator himself doesn’t always focus.
To be honest with you, I didn’t like Holden at first, and I think that might be what Salinger was going for. The kid was confused and messed up, but you wanted to hope that things would get better for him. That he would figure out something. The least he could have done was call Jane. That would have thrown out so many “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve”s from the situation. When you read a first person piece, you normally try to see the point where the narrator changes. With this book you barely even notice it, much to the idea that the narrator is hiding the change from you. If you find it, it becomes a sort of wow moment to the reader. I want to believe that moment was when you finally see Holden experience happiness for the first time since page one. When he finally smiles I couldn’t help but think, “There you are. There is the Holden I was looking for.” It was at this moment that Holden was redeemable to me. His brother, who Holden subtly refers to feeling abandoned by. He felt the emotions that lacked through the rest of the story. He lived. I almost felt like he was a non-person throughout the book and it irritated me.
I do know one thing for sure, I HATE the word phony. I’m looking at you “Big Fat Phony” Guy. I do not like you.
Would I Read This Book Again?
Probably not. It took me a long time to get through it, mainly for the fact that without a focused character I can’t focus on the reading myself. I’m the type of person that needs to have a focal point to guide me.
What I Learned as a Writer:
From Catcher in the Rye, I learned how to write in the mind of my character. The normal human mind is confusing and filled with associations. The mind of someone “lost” is even more so. By writing like this Salinger created a character that is truly complex. He both reaches out and pulls away from you. Holden tries to get you to feel just as lost as he did.
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