Friday, August 30, 2019

JD Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield is a seventeen- year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Navigating his way through the challenges of growing up, 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.

Comment: This book was in my radar simply because, as a classic - and I do tend to gravitate towards those sometimes - I just had to get to it one day. I was not thinking about reading it as soon as I did but it was available at my local library and I thought why not. I confess I imagined it would be more introspective than it did, a bit closer to To Kill a Mockingbird in terms of writing/appeal. The book ended up being interesting but not dazzling for me.

In this novel we have the small sharing of a tale by Holden Caulfield, a young boy who was recently expelled from yet another college and how he explains why he is the way he is and why he feels restless and in need to search for something in his life, since it feels like time is passing him by.
In a very colloquial and often too personal way of addressing his audience, we get to know the restrictions and fears he has and why he felt like saying something before he must conform with the norm or just be nobody...

The most common comment people have in reply to those who claim this book was not that special is for people to consider the time the book was written. In fact, if not for this, this would read to me as just the complains of a young guy who was a bit too cocky of his place in life and in an era that allows young people to have to much easy access to everything, it would be quite a moot point to actually complain.
Through this perspective, Holden would read as someone a bit too irritating.

Since the book was written in the fifties, where life - especially that of a boy of leisure, belonging to a family of a certain sphere - followed certain rules and expectations and what one showed seemed more important than what one knew, then this has quite the merit. Thinking on that, I can appreciate Holden's insights to how life is passing by, to how he sees the things everyone around his does and how clever he is being able to have a different opinion in relation to some of those things.

Therefore, what strikes me as the more disappointing is that the language used, so well defended because it was risky and daring for the time the book was published, was a real turn off for me and made me see Holden, not as someone really trying to come to terms to his evolution, his developing maturity despite his failings, but someone really annoying and who, instead of using his intelligence to be better and to be above the doubts, he embraces them and purposely fails at some things because he fears to become a responsible adult or, better, an adult with responsibilities and having to meet expectations others will have of him.

Of course, this is all subjective to interpretation, as often fiction is.
I wouldn't go as far as considering Holden such a bad character or too caught up in his own perceptions he fails to understand he does as much wrong as everyone he criticizes. I think the does embody someone with the frame of mind of those who have doubts, who must go past a certain state of life... Like all teenagers, I too dreaded the moment I had to let go of the silly, easy things in order to go to the unknown (like the university with new people, new habits etc.) but that's life.  Holden might have reason in some things but I wouldn't enjoy listening to him talk like this all the time if he was someone I had to see often.
People change, whether because of what life sends your way or because you change yourself.
Grade: 6/10

No comments:

Post a Comment