This book has to be the most vulgar young adult book I’ve ever read, but it also happens to be one of the best.
Normally I’m not a fan of vulgarity. To quote Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey, “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” That line. I love that line.
In this book, vulgarity isn’t always wit. And often it isn’t wit at all. It just is. It’s a part of the narrator’s world. It’s a very obvious way of showing that, hey, this guy isn’t perfect, and trust me, they go on to show it in many more ways. But here’s what he is: he’s trying to figure out where he belongs in the world.
This is the way of a lot of young adult books, and they pretty much all followed J.D. Salinger. They call them coming of age stories. Aptly named, don’t you think?
Well, in this book our protagonist Holden Caulfield cannot seem to stay in school. He thinks it’s full of fakes, and that, on that note, the world tends to resemble them. He has a pessimistic outlook on life, to say the least. And I think I somewhat empathize with it, as I think we all do actually. We all see fakes around us. He just sees a lot of them.
The book is a lot of him wandering around, acting like an adult when really he is a child. Acting like he owns the place when really he is lost.
I’m sure I could rip apart the symbolism in this book. I’m sure someone has. But, save the title, I’m not going to do that. Because I don’t think that was the point of this book, or any, for that matter. The point is to make you feel. Feel what, exactly, I don’t know. It’s still a bit muddled for me. I had to let myself sit for a good week after finishing it just to try and figure it out. Of course, we feel for him. We also want to know our place in the world, and therefore the suffering he endures on his journey into adulthood is relatable.
I think, ultimately, that this book accomplishes two things:
- We learn that Holden is kind. He is rough around the edges, but at the core, he is good.
- Holden learns that he wants to catch others in the rye.
There we go–the name of the book. The Catcher in the Rye. What does catching in the rye mean? Well, the book doesn’t say it right out, but it gets close. I could be wrong, but the impression I get is that he wants to catch people who need him to. Save them from whatever.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a beautiful book. 5/5 stars.