Author: J.D. Salinger
Warning: Spoilers (and I spill the ending)!
This week I’m reviewing a classic. I have never reviewed a classic on this blog before, but I really like this one. If you read my post on March 4th, this is the book I thought I’d be assigned to read for class, but it never was assigned. The only reason I checked this book out of the school library was to read the first chapter and figure out what the heck the story was about. I ended up reading the whole book and I really liked it.
The Catcher In The Rye is about a boy named Holden Caulfield who’s just been expelled from his latest boarding school, Pencey Prep. He was expelled for bad grades and because he wasn’t applying himself. In the first chapter Holden says he’ll be telling the reader about some crazy stuff that happened a year ago, and the book flashes back to the past.
The story opens with a fencing game, but Holden’s not at the game. He’s in his dorm room, reading a book. His roommate Stradlater comes in from the game and asks Holden to write a composition for him because he has a date. The only rule is the composition has to be descriptive. Holden writes about his deceased brother Allie’s baseball glove, which has poems written all over it. Allie died from leukemia about three years prior to the start of the novel, and Holden took his death pretty hard. He broke all the windows in the garage, so his parents were going to have him psychoanalyzed.
When Stradlater gets back from his date he reads the composition and doesn’t like it, because he told Holden to describe a room. They get into a physical fight, and Holden packs his stuff and leaves the school in the middle of the night. He goes to Grand Central Station, where he gets on a train and meets Ernest Morrow’s mother. After talking with her, he gets off the train at Penn Station and tries to think of someone he wants to call. But he can’t think of anyone—his older brother D.B. is in Hollywood, his younger sister Phoebe is probably sleeping, he doesn’t feel like calling Jane, and Sally’s mom hates him. So he ends up calling no one and he takes a taxi to the Edmont Hotel.
Holden goes to the Lavender Room, the Edmont’s nightclub, and he tries to order a cocktail. When the waiter refuses to serve him one, Holden flirts with three women who are visiting from Seattle but he becomes depressed when he hears about their plans to go to Radio City Music Hall, because Holden hates the movies. He thinks about Jane and says that whenever he held her hand he was happy. Later he goes to a club called Ernie’s, drinks a little, and meets up with D.B.’s old girlfriend Lillian Simmons.
Back at his hotel, the elevator operator Maurice offers to send a prostitute up to Holden’s room. The prostitute’s name is Sunny, and she’s not much older than Holden. Holden, nervous, tells her that he is recovering from an operation on his “clavichord.” He pays her the five dollars, but she claims the price is ten. Holden refuses to pay any more, and he shows her to the door. Maurice and Sunny show up later and demand Holden pay the five dollars. Maurice pins Holden against the wall, while Sunny gets the money. Holden later makes a date with Sally and he buys a record for Phoebe. Holden and Sally see a show, but afterward they go roller-skating and the date ends abruptly when Holden asks Sally to run away with him, and she says no.
After Sally leaves, Holden meets a boy name Carl Luce for drinks. Holden met Carl at the Whooton school and he is now attending Columbia. Holden pesters Luce with questions about sex, and finally fed up, Luce leaves. Since Holden is running low on cash, he decides to risk being seen by his parents and goes home, so he can talk to Phoebe.
At their apartment, he discovers his parents are out, and Phoebe figures out Holden got kicked out again. She’s not happy about it. Phoebe asks Holden what he wants to do with his life, and he says he wants to be the catcher in the rye. Holden images a field of rye in which children are dangerously close to falling off and he wants to save them before it’s too late.
I won’t give anything else away, because I’ve already told you everything important. In the final chapter, Holden has flashed back to the present, and he cryptically says he regrets telling his story to so many people.
This is one of my fave books now. I like how everyone is referred to as “old.” Everyone in this book is “old Sally,” “old Jane,” or “old Phoebe.” Holden is a great narrator. He’s not that reliable, and he’s extremely judgmental of everyone and anyone around him, he loathes phonies, but I still think he’s great. He doesn’t want to grow up, and he needs company but he also wants to be alone, and these two desires are important to his character. Holden also feels almost no emotion toward his future. I don’t know what it is, but even though he has issues and obviously character flaws, there’s something I like about him—something I just can’t put my finger on.
I am disappointed we didn’t get to read this book for school, but I’m also kind of relieved about it, because there are certain scènes that my classmates definitely can’t handle reading about, and because of the language. One of those scènes would be when Sunny goes up to Holden’s room. This book uses some fairly strong language, and its use of profanity is a big reason the book was one of the most challenged books in 2009. Other reasons for the challenging of this book include sexual references, blasphemy, rebellion, and promotion of drinking, lying, and smoking.
This book is on the banned book list, but I totally recommend it. Adults are somewhat overreacting when they try to keep kids from reading this book. Just because we like the story and we like Holden Caulfield doesn’t mean we’re all going to end up like him.
Read this book. Everyone I know who’s read it has liked it. Holden may not be an excellent role model but he’s still a fantastic fictional character.