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The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye

Taylor Kuehl, May 15, 2011

In the novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger the statement of running from the inevitable is exemplified. The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, highlights the negative impact of one trying to escape from adulthood and resist change. Though growing up is a part of everyone’s lives, Holden wants to protect himself from what he believes is a society filled with “phony” (3) people. Salinger’s use of the literary techniques of narrative perspective and structure contribute to the study of this literature piece within schools across the world today. Considered a classic novel in American literature, The Catcher in the Rye teaches life lessons about growing up and letting one’s self-protection down in order to find true happiness. Through the protagonists main lack of trust in others and isolation from the social world, Holden Caulfield portrays an adolescent struggling to fit in. His experiences with different schools, classmates and locations impact the decisions he makes throughout his journey to self-discovery.
The novel occurs mainly in two different locations, Pency Prep and New York City. The novel starts out by Caulfield recalling his life as a teenager, specifically at the school Pency Prep. But just as soon as the narrator lets us know he attended Pency Prep, the reader immediately finds out that he is getting kicked out of school. After being kicked out of school, Holden decides to go to New York for a few days, where he can stay in a hotel rather than face his parents and tell them the news of his expulsion. Though the stories that are being told take place over a mere three days, Holden flashbacks to earlier years growing up. The setting changes from Pency Prep to New York City, however, Holden still feels isolated. The geographical setting does nothing more than merely allow Holden to tell stories about a variety of persons and attitudes that he dislikes. “New York’s terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed” (81). The novel reveals that though you can change locations as many times as one desires, he or she may not be able to escape loneliness and isolation.
The organization and narrative perspective that J.D. Saligner uses within the novel contributes to a better understanding of the character Holden Caulfield. The main points of the novel arise from the different experiences that Holden Caulfield has overcome as he’s grown up. Going through the difficulty of losing his brother, Allie, to “leukemia” (38), being kicked out of school and struggling to fit into a social world, is tough. However, the ways in which Holden Caulfield deals with these difficulties is even harder for a reader to understand to some extent. Caulfield’s issue with the word “please” (211) and his stubbornness to listen to people are revealed clearly through first person point of view. Holden Caulfield’s thoughts and emotions are expressed through his experiences growing up. The reader is able to feel what Holden is going through during his complications and learn more about Holden’s character. The reader becomes interested in what Holden Caulfield thinks of the people and situations that arise before him at all times. He is retelling his journey through the use of flashbacks and reflecting on the mental impact of what he has been through. When the reader finds out that Holden Caulfield is telling the story from a mental hospital or sanatorium, he or she is not as surprised due to the actions and thoughts of the young boy that are revealed through his narration.
J.D. Salinger’s literary novel The Catcher in the Rye is a successful piece of literature. It is a novel that can easily be related to, especially by high school students like myself. However, it is a beneficial book for one to read at any age due to the fact that it is a humbling story about one’s coming of age. It can be interpreted in a variety of ways, many relating back to the characteristics of Holden Caulfield. Holden Caulfield is a privileged adolescent who lacks the work ethic to be successful. His careless decisions seem somewhat selfish because he has the opportunity to make better choices. In most cases, it seems as though when Holden is confronted with the choice to take one step forward or two steps backwards, he chooses to move in the backward direction. Personally, I frequently see decisions being made like Holden’s in society today. Sometimes it is so easier to dwell on the negative aspects of life and forget about the opportunity one has to improve on them. Unlike Holden, I try to make the best of every situation and I believe work ethic has the ability to get one far in life. It was interesting to read a novel with a character that seems to contrast myself quite a bit. I sometimes found it hard to imagine a life like Holden’s, where believing the advice of all adults is “phony” (3) and always “feeling so damn depressed and lonesome” (153). However, unlike Holden I have never experienced a death within my immediate family. I try to imagine how hard it would be to lose a family member, yet I understand that I cannot fully grasp the situation having not experienced it. I believe Holden Caulfield is the way he is due to loss. Holden isolates himself from the world because no longer does he want to be faced with losing close companions one day.
The novel The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger represents the struggle to self-discovery. Holden Caulfield’s experiences as a teenager have shaped the way in which he views the world. Caulfield’s refusal to grow up can be related to a wide variety of reader’s. Salinger teaches the reader that in order to achieve happiness sometimes, one must allow other’s in.
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