Buy this book at
To Past Reviews Index
Back to Last Page

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger

Average Review Rating Average Rating 9/10 (2 Reviews)
Book Details

Publisher : Penguin

Published : 1945, 1994

Copyright : J.D. Salinger 1945, 1946

ISBN-10 : PB 0-14-023750-X
ISBN-13 : PB 978-0-14-023750-4

Publisher's Write-Up

The Catcher in Rye is the ultimate novel for disaffected youth, but it's relevant to all ages. The story is told by Holden Caulfield, a seventeen- year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Throughout, Holden dissects the 'phony' aspects of society, and the 'phonies' themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection.

Lazy in style, full of slang and swear words, it's a novel whose interest and appeal comes from its observations rather than its plot intrigues (in conventional terms, there is hardly any plot at all). Salinger's style creates an effect of conversation, it is as though Holden is speaking to you personally, as though you too have seen through the pretences of the American Dream and are growing up unable to see the point of living in, or contributing to, the society around you.

Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood, it deals with society, love, loss, and expectations without ever falling into the clutch of a cliche.

About the Author:
J D Salinger was born in 1919. He grew up in New York City, and wrote short stories from an early age, but his breakthrough came in 1948 with the publication in The New Yorker of 'A Perfect Day for Bananafish'. The Catcher in the Rye was his first and only novel, published in 1951. It remains one of the most translated, taught and reprinted texts, and has sold some 65 million copies. It was followed by three other books of short stories and novellas, the most recent of which was published in 1963. He lives in Cornish, New Hampshire.

Column Ends


Reader Reviews

Why not Submit a Review your own Review for this book?

Review by Annett Grosser-Rogoff (300613) Rating (8/10)
Review by Chloe Lizotte (310711) Rating (9/10)

Review by Annett Grosser-Rogoff
Rating 8/10
J.D. Salinger's masterpiece The Catcher in the Rye is probably one of the most misunderstood books of all times. Holden Caulfield, a young student who is being thrown out of a boarding school - which isn't the first time – leaves before term ends and travels back to his home city of New York. He doesn't, however, go back home but decides to stay in a hotel down the road and arrive home a bit later so his parents would think he is still attending school. What sounds like a bit of fun turns out to be an emotional journey for the boy, who still suffers from the leukaemia death of his younger brother. Left on his own in the anonymous city of New York his brittle mind begins to unlace.

A lot of people read this book because it's a so called 'classic' and they feel they accomplished something by reading it. This, however, can miss the point and the reader fails to realise how much joy it is. It's a widely celebrated book and is being discussed in literature courses all over the country, but a lot of people don't understand why. The story is not particularly interesting or fantastically written. Without looking at the deeper meaning it looks like Holden simply wanders around the city from one place to another, spends money and seems to be pretty apathetic. So, it's easy to understand why some people don't understand the cult. It feels pretty depressing and even the end is not enlightening in any way.

However, if one manages to get over this obviously boringness the story is an eye-opener. The scornful essence of the story is pretty fascinating. And the fact that Salinger doesn't waste time pretending everything will be fine in the end is quite refreshing. It makes the novel feel real in a very down-to-earth way. Salinger's talent for drawing-up characters in a very efficient way shines through the whole work even if they just appear for a moment on Holden's journey.

One effect this book has had, however, is difficult to understand. It's the 'cult'-character that developed over the years. It's easy to see why people, especially young teenage boys can relate to it, but the story is so depressing it's hard to understand why someone would want to be like Holden, a boy who is cynical, on the border of depression and has no aim in life. He doesn't like or care about anything, apart from his younger sister. He's not even protesting. He just shuffles along. Holden just tries to avoid everything that looks just remotely like responsibility. It's slightly worrying young, impressionably people could take him as an example. However, to ban this book as has happened might take this a bit too far. If you dig deeper you can actually see what this really is about, a teenager in hard world, who struggles to cope with the pressure of a cruel world. He's so lonely that he that he does the only thing he can. He pretends he doesn't care, just like the world doesn't seem to care. His own parents haven't noticed that he's broken because of the death of his brother and the only thing that keeps him sane and clings to like a drowning swimmer to a piece of wood is his sister who is far too young to be able to help him. Even though the setting of the story is quite dated the emotional rollercoaster Holden is going through seems to be pretty up-to-date to how a lot of teenagers in today's climate feel.
Annett Grosser-Rogoff (30th June 2013)

Review by Chloe Lizotte
Rating 9/10
Life in Transition: Holden Caulfield's Journey into Adulthood

While growing up is inevitable, coming to terms with the process remains elusive at best. Such is the struggle of Holden Caulfield, the protagonist and walking personification of teenage angst in J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield is not a typical 16-year-old, but his feelings of alienation in a world of "phonies" as well as his fear of the passage from childhood to adulthood echo through the halls of most modern high schools. Holden faces an acute identity crisis - he does not understand the world around him, yet, more importantly, he does not really want to. After an emotional nosedive highlighted by an expulsion from Pencey Prep, Holden checks into The Edmont Hotel and wanders the environs of Manhattan for three days. However, as Holden's adventure progresses, he slowly begins to bridge the gap between the innocence of childhood and the onset of adulthood. The second-to-last chapter of The Catcher in the Rye follows Holden as a few significant events contribute to his gain of personal closure regarding the loss of innocence between childhood and adulthood, one of the book's universal themes.

Holden's walk on Fifth Avenue at the start of the chapter symbolizes his many struggles throughout the book related to his journey into adulthood. As his feet carry him down the endless blocks, he becomes increasingly panicked with each step, remarking to himself, "I had this feeling that I'd never get to the other side of the street. I thought I'd just go down, down, down, and nobody'd ever see me again" (256). This fear of "falling" as related to the title The Catcher in the Rye is a play on a Robert Burns poem and sheds light on Holden's ideal purpose in a world full of "phonies."

Holden literally wants to "catch" the children as they plummet into adulthood. Holden, like any other teenager, is frightened of growing up. He knows that no one is at the bottom of the metaphorical cliff with open arms to catch him as he falls, and that terrifies him more than anything. This fear of the edge of the cliff pushes Holden to walk on the line between childhood and adulthood without committing to either side, paralleling his sprints from block to block. Additionally, Holden clings to one of the only thoughts that he could ever find comforting for strength - the memory of his brother, Allie. As he runs, he "make[s] believe he [is] talking to [his] brother Allie" (257) and thanks him when he crosses the street safely. In a sense, Holden regards Allie as his catcher at the bottom of the cliff. He keeps Allie's catcher's mitt with him at all times, and it is clear Allie's death affected him in an irreversible manner that made it extremely difficult for him to move on in his life. As he holds on to the past, Holden's process of growing up becomes stunted. He calls out to Allie's memory to keep him unharmed not only as he walks along the streets of New York but as he wanders through his life. Unguided and uncertain, Holden never takes the time to cement exactly what he wants from life and as a result becomes trapped in the limbo of adolescence.

Accompanying the discovery of smudged obscenities on the walls of his younger sister Phoebe's school, Holden begins to understand that one's loss of innocence is unstoppable. He thinks of how all the children at the school would see the graffiti and, being young and innocent, not know what it meant. The thought drives him "damn near crazy" (260). Holden finds the fact that the message was written in a school for young children disturbing, wishing it were possible that Phoebe and her friends could exist untainted by such crude messages. In Holden's eyes, younger children like Phoebe represent everything that is real and pure about life, finding solace in visiting Phoebe in earlier chapters. He hates the thought that their innocence will inevitably disappear one day. After seeing a few more items of graffiti, Holden comments that "if you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the "F--k you" signs in the world. It's impossible" (262). Holden finally has an epiphany - he realizes that this loss of innocence is unstoppable. Society is too corrupt for there to exist a utopian, immaculate sanctuary free from all things foul. Though Holden spends the entire book running away from "phoniness," achieving this feat proves impossible. The reason why he notices such repulsive qualities so often is due to his age, yet he chooses to hold on to his bitterness and refuses to acknowledge this as merely a bump in the road as he grows up.

As the book draws to a close, Holden watches Phoebe ride the carrousel in Central Park and reflects on how he wishes that life could remain unchanged. When Holden hears music coming from the carrousel, he immediately recognizes the song and observes, "That's one nice thing about carrousels, they always play the same songs" (272). Like the carrousel, Holden wishes that his own life could always play the same song. His obsession with the state of things remaining untouched arises numerous times throughout the book, such as when Holden reminisces about visiting the Museum of Natural History, reveling in the way that "everything always stayed right where it was" (157) in the exhibits. This fascination could be linked to the repercussions of Allie's death on Holden.

He longs for his life to return to the way it was before Allie passed, yearning for a life unaffected by such a horrific turn of events. Holden encourages Phoebe to take a ride on the carrousel, but when she asks him if he wants to come ride with her, he responds, "No, I'll just watch ya. I think I'll just watch" (274). Alongside other parents watching their own children, Holden stands in the pouring rain as Phoebe rides the carrousel and is moved to tears, a scene symbolizing Holden discovering closure at the end of the book. The carrousel itself is a motif, representing childhood, a stage of life that Holden finally realizes he has outgrown. He watches Phoebe on her carrousel journey as she tries to grab the gold ring, musing that "the thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them" (273-274). For a character who consistently demonstrates irresponsibility and immaturity, Holden speaks surprisingly similar to a parent who realizes that they need to allow their children to attempt to achieve their goals independently, no matter if they succeed or fail. Holden observes Phoebe from a distance, similar to how he relates to his own childhood - literally detached, yet nostalgic. Though up to this point Holden has always remained figuratively stuck in the past, it is at this point that he understands the time has come for him to move on to another stage of his life.

Despite the fact that Holden's problems are never directly solved within the pages of the book, he still manages to gain enough closure so that the book can draw to a satisfying close. The pieces of his life are still far from reassembled; instead, Holden picks up the pieces to create a new beginning. The events of the book linger in the past, and for once, Holden seems ready to leave this behind. Holden's last words in the book indicate that his personality has not completely taken a turn for the introspective, though: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody" (277).
Chloe Lizotte (31st July 2011)

Back to Top of Page
Column Ends