Catcher in the Rye came out in 1951 and has acquired a cult following since then. It was banned in the early 60’s and is especially infamous for playing a hand in John Lennon’s assassination (The killer was found holding this book in his hand. He would later claim that his life mirrored that of the protagonist of the book.) A friend recommended this book to me one day, assuring that it is “an amazing book” and that it would “change my life”.
It isn’t and it didn’t.
To be fair, this book deals with teenage issues, like angst and rebellion, and I was way past all that when I read it so maybe I wasn’t able to relate to it better.
The book follows the story of the main protagonist, Holden Claufield, who gets expelled from his school, packs up and runs away to New York in the middle of the night, instead of returning to his parent’s home as he’s scared of what they might say. He then spends three days there, going dancing with complete strangers and employing the services of a prostitute just to get rid of the loneliness he’s feeling.
He eventually sneaks back home to talk to his little sister, Phoebe, whom he adores and who is the only person in the world he can “talk” to. While there, he shares a fantasy with her about him wanting to become the guardian of a group of children playing in a rye field at the edge of a cliff and catching them when they get too close to the brink – a Catcher in the Rye.
The rest of the story is about Holden meeting his old English teacher, Mr. Antolini (who offers him advice on life saying “A weak man is willing to die for a cause but a strong man lives humbly for one.”) and then deciding whether he wants to go back home and “face the music” or not.
Even though the book has it’s moments, I’m not too sure of the message it is trying to send through. Holden is portrayed as a cynic who just about mistrusts every adult and labels each as a “phony” as they are “very superficial and are full of pretences”. He always sees something bad in everybody and is shown running away from his fears instead of facing them.
The entire book has a very bleak and depressing tone to it and I would not recommend anybody to pick it up when they are already down as it will just make that feeling ten times worse (A mistake I made). Worth a read for anyone going through or trying to understand “teen angst” but it is definitely not my cup of tea.