The Catcher in the Rye is the summation of the teenage experience. Isolation, social awkwardness, academic pursuit, lost and found love as well as finding life’s purpose is cynically narrated by Holden Caulfield. Despite being a drop out, Caulfield tries to lead an idealistic life of what he thinks an adult should and could be. His ever cynical and honestly, immature comments, does make this book one you either love or hate.
At first, I was honestly annoyed at Caulfield. His immaturity conveyed through narration irked me. However, I took the bull by the horns, determined to finish this 140 page novel which had made it to almost every single “Books you must read before you die” lists. By the end of the novel, I was softened. Caulfield’s story was merely the apex of a bildungsroman without potential hope for a better future or proper understanding of his past. The book’s central story of a boy growing up and finding his place in society resonated with me.
“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.” -Holden Caulfield
Upon reflection of what he’d want to do for the rest of his life, this was Caulfield’s response (part of the reason for the book’s title). While some of us may not have a word for what we want to do for the rest of our lives, we do have an expression for what it is. The book also reminds of us that we can keep running from our failures and past, but they’ll catch up with us eventually.
Since the book has a pretty ambiguous ending on Caulfield’s future, it feels as if J.D Salinger reminds the future is all grey. We don’t know where we’re going and when. But we do know its the lessons we learn in our teenage years and henceforth which will carry us through in this nebulous and exciting life.