The Catcher in the Rye: A Review

The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, is oft considered a classic, a remarkable feat of psychological literature, a must-read. It’s a common feature of high school reading lists and with a page count just short of two hundred, is labelled as quick and easy reading. Which it is. You could plough through the entire book in a day if you really wanted to. But that’s not to say that you really do want to…

The Catcher in the Rye

I desperately wanted to like The Catcher in the Rye. It’s been sitting on my bookshelf for about four years and the number of times it’s been recommended to me is quite unbelievable. I picked it up and put it down on dozens of occasions and even began reading its first chapter a couple of times. It wasn’t until recently however, after having officially added it to me ‘Books to Read in 2012’ list, that I pulled it from my shelf with the intention of actually reaching its end.

The Writing

It cannot be denied that J.D. Salinger is an excellent writer with a flair for first person prose. His characterisation of Holden Caulfield, from whose point of view The Catcher in the Rye is told, is unfaltering; throughout the entire novel, I felt as if I were inhabiting a chamber of Holden’s mind, viewing the world through his eyes, responding to the world with the same feelings. The style is reminiscent almost of a stream-of-consciousness told anecdotally and irreverently, brimming with the 1940s’ idea of profane language and serving to poignantly illustrate the the peculiarities of Holden’s psyche. In this sense, J.D. Salinger’s novel is a literary triumph.

The Story

From the very first sentence, Salinger acquaints you with Holden’s peculiar way of thinking and from there, you’re taken on the journey of a sixteen year-old boy disillusioned by the world. You’re taken from boarding school to New York City to home. You meet a dozen different characters, some whose impacts on Holden are negative, others whose impacts on Holden are profoundly positive. You meet his friends, his teachers, his family, his girlfriends and you’re introduced to them crudely, frankly and through Holden’s very intriguing perspective. With Holden, you grow and you learn. You taste the raw and filthy underbelly of life. You contemplate the expectations that others have of you. You dapple with care and with carelessness. In its entirety, The Catcher in the Rye is the world seen through the eyes of a boy who sees differently.

My Conclusion

Though written with magnificent style, I found The Catcher in the Rye to be lacking that certain inexplicable element that earns a book a place on my favourites list. On an intellectual level, I can acknowledge that this classic novel is not only written well, but is thought-provoking, blunt and extraordinarily profound. However, I did not manage to enjoy it any more than I would have had I have been reading it simply as a school assignment. I found it tedious in places, repetitive in others and as a whole, I found it to be a slow and effortful read. At no point was I impelled to continue reading and when I finally reached its end, I felt only relief. While I wanted very much to enjoy J.D. Salinger’s famous book, I could only appreciate it academically.

The Catcher in the Rye is not what I would describe as an enjoyable book but that’s not to say that I wouldn’t recommend it to other readers. It is intriguing, provoking and frank and for those in search of a novel that explores perspective, society, insanity and the world, The Catcher in the Rye is definitely worth picking up.

For those who’ve already read it, what are your thoughts of J.D. Salinger’s novel?

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10 thoughts on “The Catcher in the Rye: A Review

    • I can see why that would happen. The same happened for me at The Da Vinci Code. I first read it when I was thirteen and adored it. I re-read it not so long ago and wasn’t quite as impressed…

  1. I too have this on my “probably should read this” list but have not yet picked it up. I appreciate your frankness on the novel’s merits and shortcomings – I need a shorter read for the next couple weeks so I think I’ll pick this one up now. Thanks for writing about it and giving me an unintentional kick in the pants to just do it!

  2. I also liked it when I read it in high school, but I think that it is one of those books that speaks to teenagers more than to adults. I haven’t re-read it since because I don’t really want to lose my fond feelings of it!

    • I can understand that. It really does say a lot about teenage angst and the adult world through adolescent eyes. However, in spite of my being 18, I didn’t find it quite as enjoyable as other teenagers…

  3. I definitely agree with your review, especially your point about it being an ‘effortful’ read. Despite the fact that it’s a classic and definitely a progressive novel with a strong main character, I found it a struggle to get through, mostly because I was just never in the mood to pick it up.

    I think the reason we’re both so unsatisfied is the lack of a real story. It’s one of those novels that says a lot without having anything actually happen, which isn’t really something I like. I need to have a good story to dig into in order to appreciate a novel, and I felt like it was lacking here.

    • You’re exactly right – it’s written well and it says a lot but it doesn’t entertain. There’s an abundance of meaning but a lack of action and plot. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

  4. I completely agree, I appreciated its observations of life and meaning, and was intrigued by how his mind worked but I didn’t particularly enjoy it, I actually found it quite disappointing. I also didn’t like the lack of a story and plot and when reading it I just wanted to hurry up and get to the end.

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