I read this way, way back in college, in my freshman years actually. What compelled me to read it is the controversy that this novel got itself into. Banned in various lists and libraries the supposed profanity, and seen in the hands of John Lennon’s murderer, that is enough for me to get curious. Plus numerous recommendations from a lot of people.
I used to claim that I like this novel, but when I really think about it, I am not really sure why. Maybe I just say that I like it to appear intellectual, and that is sheer phoniness, I know. And I am really reluctant to write something about it. Now, let me see.
Holden Caulfield. He’s the protagonist, the guy who ran away from school, the guy who went around New York, the guy who hated phoniness. That’s what I mostly remember about it. Phoniness.
I do not even remember the profanities. Goddammit is not very profane to me. I don’t even remember seeing the word fuck, which could have been there, but I am not really sure about that. Besides, the book is written in the first person, so it’s really understandable that those words appear with each flip of the page.
What really bothers me is that I do not really understand why is it entitled as such. There is this kid singing this song with a line that shares the title. And then there is this scene, specifically a thought, about kids falling in a wheat field, or maybe a rye field, and Holden just wants to catch these kids every time they fall.
A friend really likes that part. Unfortunately, I don’t. I appreciate it though, but I cannot like it because it’s just not my taste. Now that I am trying to recall the experience that I had with this book, I remember liking that part, too. Well, things change, and when I admitted to myself that I might not have really understood this novel, that’s when I also realized that I didn’t really like that part.
How can anyone like something that he does not understand? Some lines can be appealing because of diction and sound, but the thought is the ultimate measure in liking something. I think I got the thought though, that Holden doesn’t want a future founded on phoniness, that he wants to save kids from the misery that such phoniness can bring, that he actually loves these kids.
Despite all the angst muddled here and there, despite all the turmoil that you might see on the surface, Holden loves people. He does, doesn’t he? That’s what I suppose. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been so anxious and he wouldn’t have wanted to be this catcher that he envisions himself to be.
Since that side of Holden is not really obvious, a lot of people take this book literally. They literally attack people whom they think are phony. I do not know the life story of John Lennon’s murder, who is a good example of this, but for crying out loud, reading should be done out of entertainment. Fiction shows us a lot of truths, but that doesn’t mean that we should take them as they are served.
I think the book has a lot of appeal because of its tone and mood. With all that teenage anxiety broiling, Holden Caulfield seems like a very real person. However, he only exists in the pages and in the mind, if one allows it. So yes, The Catcher In The Rye should be a reminder that literal thinking is lethal.
I would still recommend this book to some people, although not as fervently as I would with other books. Besides, people with refined book choices might have already read it and might have better thoughts about it than me. I remember recommending it to a classmate who reads Nora Roberts and Jude Deveraux. She didn’t like it. I ended up trying to explain it to her. It got to the point that I detailed some parts with my animated storytelling. She just nodded impatiently and she was just like, okay, yeah, I prefer my romance over that kind of book.
Lessons learned: don’t shove things into others’ throats and know when to keep your thoughts to yourself. Anyway, I think I should give this book a second reading. I read it too early, when I recently graduated from commercial books. And when I do that, I hope I can read it right, that is if I haven’t read it right in the first place.