Despite being written in 1951, I think many teenagers would be able to relate to the various themes present in the book. It is a modern classic of the coming of age genre. I find the main character, 17-year-old Holden Caulfield, absolutely intriguing. After reading the book, I did my own literary analysis of “The Catcher in the Rye”.
As I read the book, it was fascinating to get inside the head of the strange, rebellious protagonist.
Holden Caulfield, about to be kicked out of yet another boarding school for flunking most of his courses, decides not to wait until the end of term and takes off for his hometown, Manhattan, a few days early. He figures he’ll hole up in a cheap hotel, look up a few friends, and then arrive home on time. But Holden is deeply troubled by the death of his beloved younger brother from leukemia, as well as a classmate’s suicide. Alone in an uncaring city, his already fragile psyche begins to unravel.
I find it an exciting and compelling read, with a gallon of brutal reality poured in along with some humour, contrasting with moments of depression. The book begins with Holden directly addressing you, the reader, and he begins to retell the events over a three day period from last December. His story starts at Pencey Prep, a prestigious boarding school filled with ‘phonies’, as Holden likes to call them.
What strikes me the most is the way Salinger creates the brash atmosphere from the very beginning of the book with Holden being portrayed as insolent, lazy and quite frankly, completely clueless about his future.
Almost all of the story is one long flashback of this three day period with occasional references to the present. One thing that sets The Catcher in the Rye apart from other similar novels, I think, is the fairly frequent use of profanity – be warned! The heavy use of colloquialism is effective in making the reader relate to the characters better and make the characters seem realistic, but on the other hand, if you’re under fourteen, I would certainly not recommend the novel to you! It isn’t only the language used that makes The Catcher in the Rye unsuitable for younger readers, but also the themes discussed, centred on the idea of morality.
J.D. Salinger’s novel is a wake-up call to all teenagers and in a sense, is an inspiring read because it sends out the message that we should all remain hopeful and true to ourselves. Teenagers can relate to it because of its complex themes of rebellion, identity and independence but I would recommend you read it before you’re an adult otherwise you may have the urge to slap Holden for his actions when reading the book!