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Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Catcher In The Rye by J D Salinger: Review

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Okay, so the book I'm going to talk about today is the hugely controversial cult classic The Catcher in The Rye by J D Salinger. 

Written in the year 1951, the book was originally meant only for adults, but became hugely popular with teenagers and adolescents alike, due to the theme of teenage angst, rebellion and isolation that runs throughout the story. The Catcher in The Rye has become one of the biggest literary names ever, with translations in almost all major languages of the world, and the book also made a compulsory reading in various courses. 

Though there have been many criticisms and negative reviews on the book due to the constant use of profanity and sexual content, in 2005, it was one of the books on Time magazine's list of the 100 best English novels written since 1923 and was also named as one of the 100 best English language novels of the 20th century by Modern Library and its readers.

The story:
The protagonist, 16 year old Holden Caulfield, has been expelled from the exclusive Pencey Prep, a boy's school in Pennsylvania, and this is not the first time Holden's been thrown out of a school. Though he doesn't really want to go and encounter his parents right away, he also does not want to spend one more minute in Pencey, as according to Holden, it is a rather fake, unendurable and expensive place to be in, and he would rather be anywhere else than at Pencey. Holden checks whatever money he has and decides to go to New York instead, planning to pass a few days there on his own, before he may go to his parents and tell them about the entire experience, especially what happened at school.

Thus begins an amazing and unforgettable journey for the reader, as Holden departs for New York and gets involved in various encounters with nuns, cab drivers, prostitutes, girls, an elevator guy and an ex-teacher, with whom he has a 'crazy' experience and decides to flee.

My take on the book:

Of course there's a lot of criticism over the book, as much as there is praise and awards. Once you read The Catcher in The Rye, you'll know that there can be only two reactions to this book - you'll either love it or hate it - it produces that strong a reaction, there's no middle way.

In my case, I absolutely loved the book. For me, and for many others, it's a book that perfectly captures the essence of teenage/growing-up rebellion, angst, alientation and the feeling of being constantly misunderstood. One of the main reasons that I feel this book received so much flak when it did could be because of the fact that it may have been too progressive for it's time. That, however, does not mean that this is purely a work of imagination, in the sense that this was not a futuristic book that the author just imagined, but instead, the kind of things and experiences that are shown in the book did happen with youngsters of that time, the only difference being that maybe it was not so openly discussed in books.

Of course teenagers of any time will talk/think about sex, drugs, rebellion and so many other things that grown-ups refuse to acknowledge, but that doesn't mean that they are not real. Despite being written years and years ago, The Catcher in The Rye is one of those rare books that teenagers/adolescents/young adults of any time will be able to relate to.

One of the best appeal of the book for me was the fact that the protagonist speaks directly to me, and Salinger has made sure that the reader feels that whatever Holden does, he makes sure he takes the reader into confidence - it's as if Holden is speaking only to you and wants to get your opinion on whatever he is doing.

While the main character may not be the ideal teenager, the magic of the story is that he is turned into a really likeable person, someone you would have wanted to meet in real life. I didn't read this as a teenager, but read it only now in my thirties, and found it an absolutely amazing book, but I've seen that most people who read it later in life have criticised the book, forgetting the angst, rebellion and identity crisis that is so synonymous with growing up.

If you've read this book, do let me know what you thought of it. I've not met many people in real life who've read this one, but it would be great to know your views on the book.

It's a MUST READ and I give it 5 hearts....

- Debolina Raja Gupta