Catcher in the Rye


The book, Catcher in the Rye, has been steeped in controversy since it was banned in America after its first publication. John Lennon?s assassin Mark Chapman, asked the former Beatle to sign a copy of the book earlier in the morning of the day he murdered Lennon. Police found the book in his possession upon apprehending the psychologically disturbed Chapman. However, the book itself contains nothing that might have lead Chapman to act as he did. It could have been just any book that he was reading the day he decided to kill John Lennon and as a result, it was the Catcher in the Rye, a book describing a nervous breakdown, that caused the media to speculate widely about the possible connection. This gave the book even more recognition. The character Holden Caulfield ponders the thoughts of death, accuses ordinary people of being phonies, and expresses his love for his sister through out the novel. So what is the book Catcher in the Rye really about?

Superficially the story of a young man getting expelled from another school, the Catcher in the Rye is, in fact, a perceptive study of one individual?s understanding of his human condition. Holden Caulfield, a teenager growing up in 1950?s, New York, has been expelled from school for poor achievement once again. In an attempt to deal with this he leaves school a few days prior to the end of term, and goes to New York to take a vacation before returning to his parents? inevitable irritation. Told as a monologue, the book describe Holden?s thoughts and activities over these few days, during which he describes a developing nervous breakdown. This was evident by his bouts of unexplained depression, impetuous spending and generally odd, erratic behavior, prior to his eventual nervous collapse.

Some critics have argued that Holden?s character is erratic and unreliable, as he has many of the middle-class values that he claims to reject. Later on critics began to have praised the twisted humor of the main character. These critics have commented that the structure of the novel helps you understand Holden?s unstable state of mind. Alastair best remarked: "There is a hard, almost classical structure underneath Holden?s rambling narrativ. The style, too, appears effortless; yet one wonders how much labor went into those artfully rough-hewn sentences" (qtd. in Davis 318)

A large field of critics took a positive view of the novel. Paul Engle commented that the story was "emotional without being sentimental, dramatic without being melodramatic, and honest without simply being obscene"(3). Engle also wrote the authenticity of Holden?s character, the idea that his voice was typical of a teenager, never childish or written down at that age level. Engle wrote "The effort has been made to make the text, told by the boy himself , as accurate and yet as imaginative as possible. In this, it largely succeeds"(3). Many people repeat Engles viewpoint, the Catcher in the Rye is not just about age it is a unique story of a unique child. Engle writes, "The story is engaging and believable?Full of right observations and sharp insight, and wonderful sort of grasp of how a boy can create his own world of fantasy and live forms"(3)

Holdens continuous thoughts on the death are not typical of most teenagers. His near obsession with death might come from having experienced two deaths in his early life. He constantly dwells on Allie, his brother?s death. From Holden?s thoughts, it is obvious that he loves and misses Allie. In order to hold on to his brother and minimize the pain of his loss, Holden brings Allie?s baseball mitt along with him where ever he goes. The mitt has additional meaning and significance for Holden because Allie had written poetry, which Holden reads, on the baseball mitt. Holden?s fixation with death can be seen in his viewing of a dead classmate, James Castle. It tells the reader something about Holden that he lends his turtleneck sweater to his classmate, with whom he is not at all close.

The book The Catcher in the Rye is thought by many people to be a tragedy, but by some critics it is to be considered humorous, keen, and intelligent. Whenever a character is nearing the point of no return in a Salinger piece, it is usually done by route