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Jerome David Salinger: The Catcher in the Rye

Jerome David Salinger is a representative of American literature. He became famous for writing his first great novel The Catcher in the Rye, which I will discuss right now. First I have to say that Salinger is also the author of many other writings like:

A Boy in France – Chlapec vo Francúzsku, Nine Stories – Deväť Poviedok, Blue Melody – Modrá Melódia, Down at the Dinghy – Pri Ľoďke, Hapworth 16 1924 - Hapworth 16 1924, I'm Crazy – Som Blázon, The Laughing Man – Smejúci sa Muž, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters - Zdvihnite vysoko povalovaný trám, tesári, Seymour: An Introduction - Seymour: Úvod, The Stranger - Cudzinec, This Sandwich Has No Mayonnaise – Sendvič je bez majonézi , The Varioni Brothers – Bratia Varioni, Franny and Zooey – Franny a Zooey. He is also an author of many short stories, which were published in different magazines during the 1940’s.

Now I will start analyzing the novel The Catcher in the Rye

Character Analysis:
Since there are lots of characters which appear throughout the book, I will just mention the main characters. Holden Caulfied – is the narrator and main character. He is a 16 year old student who was expelled due to bad results at his school Pencey in Pennsylvania. It may look as if he was stupid but he is not, he is just too lazy to study. On one side he acts like a tough guy, he drinks, smokes and swears throughout the entire book but on the other, he is very sensitive and emotional inside. He also tries to behave politely. His mind and feelings are very unbalanced. He doesn’t know what he wants to achieve, doesn’t know which way is the right way for his life. His behavior is unpredictable. Once his behavior is childish and sometime he acts like a grown-up. Holden is disgusted by the world he lives in and he demonstrates his aversion towards adults. During his wandering throughout the city he repeatedly thinks about his sister Phoebe and his younger brother who is dead. This shows us how much he actually cares about them and that there is a very strong bond with his sister.

Phoebe Caulfield – is Holden’s sister. She is very intelligent, smart, cute and joyful. She loves Holden very much and she wants only the best for him. There is a very strong connection between them. Holden feels very satisfied when she is around; he knows that she understands him and that she will be there always for him. Phoebe acts more mature than him. She is emotional and good-hearted.

With her around he can actually be himself, be relaxed and don’t have to act in the dishonest way, in which he acts everyday in this rotten world.

This book is a bit different compared to other pieces of American literature which I read recently and therefore it makes it a really interesting one to read. The whole story is about an emotionally unbalanced 16-year old teenager, Holden Caulfield, who is searching for the meaning of life and criticizes the disgusting, dishonest world of adults. Holden tells us everything that happened during 3 days after he had been expelled from the Pencey Prep School in Pennsylvania. Salinger uses clear and comprehensible language in the text. It is really a pleasure to read because the language is written in American English. The teenager is the narrator therefore there are many slang words appearing in the text including swear words too. I like this book also because the author lets you immerse deeply into the character’s personality and mind. His thoughts and ideas are thoroughly portrayed and really fun to read.
Holden never actually liked his school Pencey, you can see it here: [“V Pencey nevychovávajú ani o chlp lepšie ako v iných školách. A ja som tam namojdušu nepoznal nikoho, kto by bol skvelý alebo bystrý a podobne. Možno dvoch. Aj to je veľa. A tí už asi takí do Pencey prišli. .. Dievčat nikdy nebolo na rugbyových zápasoch veľa. Bola to strašná škola, nech sa na to pozeráte tak či onak. Rád chodím niekam, kde človek aspoň sem´tam vidí nejaké baby, i keď sa len śkrabú po ramenách alebo smrkajú do vreckovky alebo sa chichocú a tak.” pg. 8] In this quotation Holden is planning his departure: [“Odrazu som sa rozhodol, čo spravím. Zmiznem z Pencey, a to na fľaku, ešte tej noci. Nebudem čakať až do stredy. Už sa mi tam proste nechcelo tvrdnúť. Bolo mi tam pŕišerne smutno a cítil som sa taký opustený. Rozhodol som sa, že si vezmem v New Yorku v nejakom hoteli izbu – v takom lacnejšom – a do stredy si dám pohov. .. Nechcel som sa ukázať doma, kým to nedostanú a dôkladne nestrávia. Nechcel som vidieť ten frmol, keď sa to dozvedia.” pg.54] As I mentioned before his strong relationship with his sister was very honest and he knew he could trust her anytime. He loves his sister. He describes her as a sweet woman. [“Ale fakt by som nebol mal nič proti tomu pokecať si chvíľku s mojou malou Phoebe. .. V živote ste nevideli také pekné a bystré decko. Fakt je bystrá. Ako začala chodiť do školy, má v jednom kuse samé jednotky. .. Má vám také červené vlasy, skoro ako Allie, a v lete ich nosí vždy veľmi krátke. V lete si ich zahŕňa za uši. Má také chutné, drobné ušká. .. Mali by ste ju radi. Viete, ked jej niečo rozprávate, vie presne, o čo ide. Môžete ju dokonca hocikde so sebou zobra.” pg.

Phoebe is aware of the thing that Holden has no ambitions, doesn’t have anything what would make him happy, that he doesn’t know what he wants. He tries to persuade her that he likes lot of things but he can’t think of any. [“Ty nemáš rád vôbec nič. .. Ale áno! Mám! Jasné, že mám. To mi nehovor. Prečo mi to hovorí? Lebo nemáš. Nemáš rád žiadnu školu. Nemáš rád milión vecí. Nemáš! .. Povedz jednu vec. Jednu vec? .. Dobre. .. Vtip bol ale v tom, že som sa nemohol poriadne sústrediť. Niekedz je ťažko sa sústrediť....” pg. 168] Later Holden tells Phoebe what he would like to do: [“Slovom, ja si v jednom kuse predstavujem, ako sa davy malých deciek hrajú na takom velikánskom žitnom poli. Tisíce malých deciek, a široko-ďaleko niet ani jedinkého dospelého, myslím teda okrem mňa. A ja ti stojím na kraji nejakej strašidelnej priepasti. A vieš, čo musím robiť? Musim chytiť každého, kto sa priblíži k tej priepasti. Rozumieš, ak uteká a nedíva sa , kde beží, ja musím odniekaľ vyliezť a chytiť ho. .. A toto by som robil od rána do večera. Chytal by som tie decká v žite.Viem, že je to bláznovstvo, ale to je jediná vec, čo by som naozaj rád robil. ” pg. 172]

What would I do in his situation?

Well, of course I can understand that generally young kids, teenagers have many problems and lots of obstacles in front of them while growing up. They are starting to make their own opinions on different things with which they are surrounded by. I don’t think that those years were much different from these today. Holden had no ambitions in his age, but that is I think very typical for today’s generation. Even I am not 100 % sure if my ambitions are the ones which are worth going after. In my opinion he acted very quickly and recklessly, first of all, he did a bad thing to underestimate the school. I know it’s sometimes very hard to overcome many other factors that keep distracting you from your studies, but in his place I would think of studying as in future investment. It helps me, when I am having difficult times in school. Holden was also afraid that he would be stuck with the same profession like his dad. Well in his place I would show my parents what is really in me, that I can really be good at the things I would like to do and I am confident that I would achieve my goal. But maybe I am wrong and that time was really harsh and it was much harder to become someone then nowadays, but I don’t think so. The theme of this book:
From reading the book I sense that the time was hard for the kids and that they had to obey their parents, do what they said.

It was in a way a battle of two generations and therefore teenagers were disgusted by the world of adults. They were lacking self-confidence. The had no ambitions. They were floating in limbo. The book shows us that it was hard for a normal child to succeed, that there are more and more problems arising everyday.

My opinion:
Generally I liked the book mainly because of its simple language and the description of an ordinary life of a normal teenager in his hard time. The author emphasizes every detail of all actions taken by Holden which make the reading very interesting and enjoyable. The other thing which is different from other writings is that the plot focuses on a very short period of time, only three days. Sometimes throughout the book I was so immersed in Holden’s mind that I could feel some kind of a symbiosis between me and him.

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