By Cameren Brown, Courier Staff Writer
Liberating, thought-provoking, and realistic; Catcher In the Rye leads readers into escapism with its lethargic yet sincere characters, and its subtle yet profound messages.
In the midst of a post World-War II world, a brand new “teenager” culture boomed. Kids between ages thirteen to nineteen were no longer kids, as now they had a new label, a new zone between child and adulthood, though in Holden’s case a new purgatory. In this new culture, “The Catcher in the Rye” was born. Published in 1951, the book is the master work of J.D. Salinger, an up-and-coming author at the time.
A sixteen year old boy named Holden Caulfield roams the streets of New York looking to occupy himself after dropping out of another academy. As the dread of facing his parents grows, he begins questioning his true values and his life’s meaning through his interactions with people.
Holden represents as much a coming of age story as he does a tale of escapism. He’s fed up with his routine: going to school, going from class to class, etcetera and Salinger catches this chronic apathy perfectly. With this, Holden finds himself acting mostly on impulse, unconvincingly passing himself off as old enough to mix his coke with scotch and getting into fights with his roommates encapsules the gnawing urge to grow up fast that’s still prevalent with teens today.
No other writer had really took on this slang-riddled narrative style expressed through the piece, and the book was controversial because of that. Especially in this modern age, a book just doesn’t have the same appeal as something more flashy like a Michael Bay movie, but with the specific use of Holden’s cynical diction and slang (though a bit outdated by this point), readers’ attention is immediately grabbed and soon retained, simply because the character is sculpted so interestingly in such a lethargic, “outsider looking in” point of view that is almost rare for a story to pull off properly.
As a character piece, the dialogue is most of the story and is what defines it. When Holden describes the world around him as “crummy”, and calls the people around him and their actions “phony” it just feels like it is said with sincerity, and to some, maybe a bit bratty. But that is just the point, there’s a true authenticity to Holden’s words and the beliefs he holds- many teens feel as if they have no voice, so when they choose to express it, it’s easy for it to sound hostile towards something, which a lot of the time is the case. And again, that just adds to the piece’s realism.
As long as you’re not a phony, “The Catcher in the Rye” is highly recommended, whether you’re an adult or teen, or someone who doesn’t even care for books, the story holds up by itself as a look into a different, but common mindset amongst the adolescent around us, the schema of youth. A Holden Caulfield lives somewhere in all of us.