rating: 3 of 5 stars
Well I think you have to like the main character of the book to like the book and I did to some degree. someone told me that i HAD to read this book as a teenager to enjoy it fully and i did enjoy it – finished it in a day. It was humouress and touching but left me with a strange empty feel about the world. I hope Holden finds some meaning in his life – otherwise he’ll just be the eternal wanderer never finding a place of his own. I’m still thinking over it…may even reread it. I guess it’s about finding something real in a world full of “phonies” – the thing that he’s searching for and in the end he finds it with his sister.
OTHER PEOPLES THOUGHTS
“My God — JD Salinger is basically Judy Blume with more cursing.
“Holden is idealistic, yet a failure. He hates “phonies” like actors, musicians, and snobby prep school kids, but loves genuine people, like “old Phoebe” his little sister—such things “kill” him. He can’t do the system—sees no reason to. Neither can he get past the death of his little brother Allie, a victim of cancer. Holden is impulsive, a spendthrift, a pathological liar, yet has a strong respect for goodness. He sees through the crap, but he can’t seem to separate the good from the bad in order to enjoy, learn from, or be bolstered by the good. The good is rather tainted by the bad, the punishing teachers, selfish jocks, shallow girls, cruel kids. They ruin the whole world for Holden. He has become something of a misanthrope. His use of hyperbole is at first comic, and eventually tiresome. He acts without inhibition, but without purpose or even a sense of adventure—he just keeps going, perhaps so he doesn’t have to sit and think, consider his situation. He tells Phoebe that the only thing he would really enjoy becoming in life is the “catcher in the rye” an imaginary job, spin off of a poem (actually a misreading) where kids play ball in the rye, near a cliff; it’s Holden’s job, as catcher, to keep them from falling off the cliff.
He half-heartedly seeks comfort from the world, often imagining that the world and its people are in sync with him—that bartenders will serve him cocktails, that whores will be honest, clerks will respect Christmas trees, teachers will have moral integrity, that in the midst of his wilderness he can sit on a train and have pleasant conversation with nuns, giving donations to their good work.
A former English teacher counsels him, quoting psychoanalyst, Wilhelm Stekel: “the mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” Holden isn’t living, so in essence he is dying. The advice is bang on, but the messenger, who makes a midnight pass at Holden, is still imperfect.
In the end it is Phoebe who brings him home—her goodness, her unqualified trust in him, her willingness to bring a suitcase and follow him anywhere. This “kills him” and brings him home.”