Wednesday, 4 September 2013
The hero-narrator of THE CATCHER IN THE RYE is an ancient child of sixteen, a native New Yorker named Holden Caulfield. Through circumstances that tend to preclude adult, secondhand description, he leaves his prep school in Pennsylvania and goes underground in New York City for three days. The boy himself is at once too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it. There are many voices in this novel: children's voices, adult voices, underground voices-but Holden's voice is the most eloquent of all. Transcending his own vernacular, yet remaining marvelously faithful to it, he issues a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, like most lovers and clowns and poets of the higher orders, he keeps most of the pain to, and for, himself. The pleasure he gives away, or sets aside, with all his heart. It is there for the reader who can handle it to keep.
Ok so after reading that blurb I'm pretty sure I've missed an awful lot of the 'deepness' of this novel, but I'm just going to talk about the stuff that I noticed in the novel, so hopefully this won't be super pretentious or full of literary condescension.
'Catcher' is one of those books that millions of people hold very close to their heart, it provided comfort and understanding to them as they were growing up. And while I didn't love it as much as others, I do understand what makes this book such a classic.
My first question is what is Holden's problem with the movies? He seems to hate them because they're fake, but doesn't everyone know that. They're just mindless fictional entertainment, what's so wrong with that. Maybe it's based on his hatred of phoniness. There are very few people in the novel who Holden doesn't describe as a phony, and to be honest a lot of the time I agree with that label. He hates the fakeness of the adult world, and most of the adults and teenagers in the novel act in a shallow and vapid way, which really gets Holden's goat.
Holden is thought to be one of the whiniest protagonists of any young adult novel, and I agreed with this until I realised that Holden is only whining because he can't get anyone to listen to him, but as the novel progresses he stops whining and begins telling.
The voice of Holden is particularly unique. While he sounds like an adult, he also sounds like the typical teenager. He says 'goddamn' and 'sorta' so much it gets annoying but somehow it works. Holden speaks in a detached manner, as if he's trying to distance himself from the story he's telling, probably because he's uncomfortable with it.
Half way through this book I watched a youtube video, Crash Course, where John Green explained the subtleties of the novel. I had never noticed it before, but once it was pointed out to me that the book is all about the protection of innocence and Holden's quest to be a 'Catcher in the Rye' all the little references became clear to me. The whole episode with "Fuck you" written on the wall in Holden's old school for example, would have made no sense to me, but they all fit now. The book deals with the idea of growing up and losing innocence, while transitioning into the phony adult world. I think nearly all teenagers would be able to relate to that concept, I certainly do at this time in my life.
I would recommend this book to all teenagers, it's an easy read while also being comforting and giving food for thought. While there was so much hype built up around the book, it didn't really live up to my astronomically high expectations, but it was still brilliant.
Four and a half stars ****1/2