Jerome David Salinger Catcher in the Rye
Catcher in the rye is the name of one of the most popular and successful Jerome David Salinger’s novels. I think that its real significance could be only understood after reading the whole book, which is very metaphorical, indeed.
The story starts in Agerstown, USA. Holden Caulfield, the main character, has been expelled from the Pencey School on account of his miserable achievements. Although he is supposed to stay at the school until the start of the Christmas vacation (two days), he leaves because of his schoolmates. He considers all of them - and mainly his roommate Stradlater - to be very phoney and unpleasant, and this makes him mad. He goes to say his farewells to his favorite teacher before leaving, but he is disgusted by the advice the teacher gives him. Since then, small incidents begin to happen one by one and initiate him to think deeply about the world and people. Holden leaves for his hometown, New York, and decides to spend a couple of days there before going home. Actually, he wants to wait until his parents learn the bad new from the school at first. So he stays in a cheap hotel and spends his free time wandering in the city and meeting friends, as well as unknown people. He keeps trying to meet with his little sister, Phoebe, but vain. Finally, he sneaks in their flat and sees her. They encounter few more times and with one such appointment the story ends.
The most interesting thing in the book are Holden’s trains of thought and his character reflected in them. Every small event, every meet with either new people, or old friends leaves him marked. The story is told in I-narration, and I would say that the author perfectly merged with the main character – it is drawn very deeply and impressively. Holden is a 16 years old boy without any ambitions to his life. He tells about himself that he is the black sheep of the family. His sister Phoebe, who is probably the second important character in the book, is described as a clever child, as well as his dead brother Allie. Interested neither in school, nor in further life, he thinks once about committing suicide, and then about escaping in wild, desert places. I had the feeling that he is a halved personality: on one hand he keeps trying to be polite, on the other – he smokes, drinks alcohol and swears a lot. Although he is very sensitive, he acts as a “tough guy”.
He absolutely dislikes the world of adults (and even teenagers), saying that they are hypocrites and phoneys, and considers them to be kind of enemies for him. Though looking intelligent, he is very childish and the only wights he likes are children, being in the conviction that Phoebe is the one and only that understands him. For instance, at the end of the story, when he tells her that he wants to go somewhere very far, she takes her suitcases and demands to go with him. Finally, she convinces him not to go anywhere, and he admits to return home and maybe to visit a psychologist. In my opinion, Holden, as the main character, changes from the beginning to the end of the story: he looks like more mature then. His initial thoughts full of hate and satiety seem to be gone. However, in some cases, he acted very strange – the way I would not. I think he was very pessimistic and damnatory, as well; hence I did not like him very much.
Unlike Holden’s behavior, I could say the story “caught” me. Only, I still could not get what does the title mean. Then, after reading the whole book, I understood that it is a symbol with a real meaning: it expresses Holden’s rebellion, with constituents of disgust and absurdity, maybe representing the same meanings of crowds of American teenagers.