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The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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Over millions of teen novels are sold every year. Some of the most popular books include Twilight, Gossip Girl, and The Vampire Diaries. Even though these address issues and problems that most teenagers often face, none of them truly seem realistic and gritty like the 1951classic The Catcher in the Rye. This fictitious novel, written by J. D. Salinger and published by Little, Brown and Company, tells the story of a high-school age boy named Holden Caulfield who takes an intense journey in order to find himself. The major themes of the book are recognizing what Holden’s values are and how he deals with feeling alone.

In the beginning of The Catcher in the Rye, the main character, Holden Caulfield, is hospitalized for an unacknowledged mental illness. He starts to retell his story from when he attended Pencey prep school and then got expelled for a lack of ambition for education. He decides to say farewell to some of his acquaintances, including his elderly history teacher and annoying roommates. Unhappy from talking to anyone from the school, Holden leaves abruptly and takes the first train to New York City. Here, Holden becomes exhausted emotionally, mentally, and physically. He drinks a lot of alcohol, smokes cigarettes constantly, gets little sleep, and even buys a prostitute or one night, all of which don’t go over well. He also flirts with a group of women much older than him, and goes on a date with an old flame, Sally Hayes. These incidents, unfortunately, also end quickly. After many disappointing attempts at being mature, Holden finds himself wanting to be with his true love, Jane Gallagher. After trying to call her up several times during the time he is in Manhattan, he gives up and decides to visit his younger, more responsible sister, Phoebe Caulfield. He secretly enters his parent’s apartment building and talks to little Phoebe, who is extremely disappointed in his lackluster attitude about school. She even questions his ambitions and goals in life and what his true values are. Throughout the story, Holden is reprimanded by several characters for his behavior, but none of them quite get through to him like his kid sister. That night, he spends the night at the apartment of his past English teacher, Mr. Antolini, but Holden leaves in the middle of the night and goes to the train station, where he left all of his belongings from a couple nights before. Later, he meets up with Phoebe again and goes to the museum, but she becomes irritated with him and threatens to walk home alone. Instead, Holden takes her to the Carousal, and he finally feels content with himself.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Catcher in the Rye. It was very interesting and memorable, because it took me on an emotional roller coaster in the retelling of just a few days of the life of Holden Caulfield. After reading this novel, I felt obligated to find out what happened to Holden in the future, especially his relationship with Jane Gallagher and his sister, Phoebe. The underlying opinions of the author also interested me, which were the importance of ambition and dealing with loneliness. I agree with the author’s views on these subjects, even though the main character seems to struggle with both. Throughout the story, J. D. Salinger accurately portrays the life of a young person who was unmotivated and lived a life in solitude, and the outcome isn’t positive. Salinger also alludes to the problems of drugs, alcohol, and sex during one’s teenage years.
At the end of the novel, the author leaves out the insecure future of Holden Caulfield, which alludes to numerous possibilities. As the reader, I desperately wanted to know what has become of Holden, but all I can do is hope for the best of this fictitious character. Perhaps Holden finally realized his true potential, but he also could have spiraled further into personal darkness. This uncertainty is also prevalent in S. E. Hinton’s That Was Then, This is Now, which follows the story of a teenage boy who’s close relationships fall apart due to drugs. In the end, he also feels alone and unsure of his own future, like Holden does in The Catcher in the Rye. Both teen novels tackle these issues, and leave the reader begging for more information on the main characters.
I was certainly affected by the novel and will always remember the characters. My favorite characters were Holden and Phoebe, because it was interesting how the little sister was much more mature than her older brother. Also, they’re friendship-like relationship really appealed to me.
Overall, The Catcher in the Rye was a fantastic novel that I would recommend to any teenager. Even though the book has been reprimanded for its racy content, such as drugs, sex, and alcohol, it truly portrays the consequences and feelings that young adults can relate to. Whether the story takes place in the late 1940s or modern day, teens of all types have been affected by the powerful experiences of Holden Caulfield, and will continue to do so for generations.



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