Monday, 3 November 2014

Book review: Catcher in the Rye - J. D. Salinger

After hearing so much about it over the years, I finally got down to reading Salinger's, Catcher in the Rye.

I honestly had no idea what to expect from the novel, but I found it really easy to read, and kind of addicting, constantly wanting to know what would happen over the page. It's definitely worth the read.

Holden Caulfield is a character that I think a lot of people can learn about themselves from. He is a teenage boy, who doesn't know what he wants; this causes so much indecision that at times he just has to be away from other people, and he can't make simple decisions; thus one of the main themes of the novel is alienation. And in this sense, I suppose most people can empathise with him, as nothing's all that easy these days and sometimes it is simpler to just be by yourself, but there are other instances where I feel objection to most of the things he says.

Holden's constant mentioning of the idea of people being 'phony' seems almost ironic. Through half the novel he's lying about his age and his whereabouts; surely this can be seen as highly hypocritical, as in a lot of ways, Holden himself is clearly a phony. And he doesn't care at all about how his actions might cause annoyance to others, only seeing things from his own point of view in most instances.

Another important theme is growing up, and how the adult world can seem so false at times it's almost unbearable to childlike eyes. Holden gets really wound up thinking about Stradlater and Jane together, and in this sense he seems to see it as his roommate having destroyed Jane's innocence and the image of her as he remembers her. Equally, I think that perhaps Holden acts childishly at times, to attempt to distance himself from impending adulthood, as really, he wants to stay in a place where things make sense to him. I think this is why he finds himself so content his younger sister, Phoebe's, company.

There are a few lines and phrases in particular that really spoke to me, and sounded more meaningful than perhaps perceived at first glace.

'I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It's nice.' This is something I can relate to so much. Quite a few times, I've been with people who are talking really passionately about something they love, and it is so nice to hear and see the smile on their face as they speak faster than they can really manage. But in these instances there are often people who call them out because what they're saying is irrelevant to the conversation or whatever, like in this part of the book, and it's just so unnecessary. If someone is clearly really happy to be talking about something, you let them talk about it.

Another phrase that I've thought about far too much is: 'how do you know what you're going to do till you do it?' Literally. This is almost a summary of my whole life. Everyone expects you to have a life plan of some sort these days, but in all honesty I have no idea what I'm doing. And that's something that people seem to look down on and it really annoys me. I think all my friends tend to assume I know what I'm doing all the time, and when I do something it's because I've planned to, as they see me as a thorough thinking person. Which, undeniably, at times I am. But I'm also foolishly impulsive at other times. And a lot of the time, I really don't know what I'm going to do until it's happening. And I don't know why people look down on that so much, because if anything it should be quite refreshing.

Holden suggests that 'Guys that never read books' are boring and I kind of agree, but would probably extend it to people in general. Like, I get that not everyone enjoys reading, and some people actually find it quite difficult; but I just think a book can be so much more than a video game or a film, because your imagination plays much more of a part in reading. And that's quite exciting.

One of my favourite lines in the book is: 'looking for something their own environment couldn't supply them with.' Because I get it. I have no idea what I'm looking for in life, but I know that I didn't find it where I've been, and I might not find it where I am now either. And it kind of sucks, to feel, at a young age, that everything you could hope for, is so far away from you.

The character I found most interesting in the novel, was one that the reader is never properly acquainted with, and just hears about through Holden's admiration for her. Jane Gallagher is portrayed as attractive and respectable, and through Holden's consistent mentioning of her, appears as his ideal companion; and yet at all the points in the book that he seems to want to call her, he never does, putting it down to not being in the mood to. It creates the suggestion that maybe Jane isn't real, and is perhaps just a figment of Holden's imagination, seeming almost too good to be true.

To me, I can see the whole novel being addressed to Holden's brother, Allie, who died before the events of the book unfold. He doesn't actually mention Allie very much, but when he does he always holds a tone of admiration, quite like how he talks of Jane, and you can tell that Holden really cared for him, and misses him. In a way, the novel could show the protagonist reaching out in hope that someone like his brother will talk back to him. The closing line, 'God, I wish you could've been there,' was what really made me think that the story could be talking to Allie, as Holden is watching their younger sister go on the carousel, and that's something that he as a brother loved seeing, and thus knew his younger brother would too. Also, it's mentioned that Holden sometimes talks to Allie earlier on in the novel, and the final line reminded me of it, and, I don't know, I think it kind of makes sense. Like, Holden's rebellion against school and growing up might be because he knows his brother's never going to get any older, and so he wants to remain in that state of youth that reminds him of when Allie was still around.

Have you read Catcher in the Rye? If you have, let me know what you thought of it; was it the classic you expected? Or were you hoping for more?

Until next time.

(p.s. this post has been scheduled for like three weeks lolz; it didn't seem right posting it before now).

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