Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

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By Delia Burke, Staff Writer

  *Spoiler Warning*                                                     

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is an intriguing, symbolic novel that’s filled with unexpected twists and turns. The story follows sixteen year old Holden Caulfield, who was recently expelled from his boarding school – he decides to go to New York City two days earlier than he was supposed to, due to his expulsion. It shows his days in the city, and truly encapsulates the reality of adulthood. 

Throughout the novel, he slowly comprehends the fact that being an adult isn’t as glamorous as it seems, and by his second day in the city he goes home to his younger sister, Phoebe. He tells her of the events in the city, and explains he had heard a boy singing the lyrics, “If a body catch a body comin’ thro the rye,” on the street and how it had given him a fantasy to be a catcher in the rye, catching kids before they fall off a cliff into adulthood. This fully displays Holden’s mindset, and his focus on preserving childlike states and ideas to help shelter them from a more practical- and more difficult world. Phoebe explains to him that the lyric is in fact, “If a body meets a body comin’ thro the rye.” This realization captures just how set Holden is on his ideology and opinions.

Catcher in the Rye Cover Art by E. Michael MItchell

 The next day he asks his sister to meet him at the zoo during her lunch. They meet at the zoo, and as he watches his sister as she goes on the carousel, he finds himself comforted with how happy and free she is riding on the carousel, and says he could almost cry. From there, it flashes to him being held in an unspecified facility, and you realize the whole novel is a flashback of his memory of the winter before. 

Throughout this novel, what really struck me was that Holden’s character never developed the way most characters do. He kept his opinions, and, if anything, took his events in the city as a confirmed bias. Holden’s character is so well thought out and the symbolism is present in every inch of his psyche. Even his name has a meaning: Holden can be heard or seen as “hold- on.” His last name, Caufield, contains “caul,” the membrane that protects a baby. This could mean to hold on to the field that protects his innocence.

 The story primarily focuses on the topic of loss of innocence, as does Holden. He is happiest when Phoebe truly embraces her age while on the carousel, as he reflects on the effect it had on him. The writing in this story keeps you interested and makes it hard to put the book down, and even after finishing it, it keeps you contemplating it, and you truly realize just how much symbolism there is. This story has stuck with me even after reading it years ago because the story not only shows the worries teenagers have about growing up, but displays it in such a way that your mind stays with it, analyzing it for years after. 

This story still has such immense importance to today’s society, because it demonstrates how worrying about the future and trying to prevent it will only make it seem like it comes faster. The pandemic caused so many teenagers, and even adults, to question the future and stress over what they should do next, and a book like this can remind us that instead of running from change, you should embrace and prepare for it. 

J.D. Salinger’s writing is close to genius. I highly recommend this story to people who like to analyze or look deeper into things. This story has a lesson that’s important to hear, and has the crucial reminder that you can’t control the future, no matter how much you try.