The Catcher in the Rye

Most folks that I know have have read this book when they were in school or college..many of them who studied outside of India read this book as a part of their school curriculum. But then again, I don’t think any Indian school (even today) would allow this interesting book as a part of the school curriculum due to what the Indian education board may regard as bad language and other crude references. Even in the west the book was once on the list of banned books before it was hailed a classic owing to the strong language contained in it.

This book published in the 1950’s is like a monologue of a 17 year old school student who gets expelled from school. Apparently he has been expelled from many schools in the past and this one is no different. He flunks every subject other than English one of his favorites. Earlier on in the book it is established that he is a good writer and his brother is also a very famous writer who writes screen plays for Hollywood movies. This book talks about the mixed feelings that goes on in his mind about the people around him and the world in general. It is a potpourri of thoughts that go on in the mind of a rebellious teenager presented very coherently by the author J D Salinger.

Many chapters in this book made me realize that that many of us feel the same way about a lot of issues like the main protagonist, Holden Caulfield. Holden feels that world is full of “phonies” and people only act a certain way to be perceived as cool. Men use each other to get what they want and if people are friendly it is not because they genuinely care but because they need something out of the other person. One of the chapters in the book talks about a movie which only has happy endings. Even the Doberman in the movie has a cute litter of puppies which run around the table around the other happy characters when the movie ends. This chapter reminded me so much about our very own Rajshri film productions where nothing ever seems to go wrong! Its a perfect way of representing how the world in general loves to avoid that brutal truths of so that they have something “nice” to cling on to and move on.

The relationship that Holden shares with his 10 year old sister Phoebe (whom he refers to as old phoebe) is beautifully etched out. He is able to connect with her and have better conversations with her than any of the other adults in his life. The monologue spans across 2 days of his life in New York City bringing out the grey areas and life in the city earlier in the century in a very subtle way. Holden cannot seem to figure out what he wants to do with his life – all he knows is that he does not want to be a phony. He does not want to be a lawyer just to make a lots of money as he feels that a lawyer should help save people lives and he does not to want to become a writer either as he feels that most writers end up becoming prey to fame and fortune thus giving up their true talent and creativity. Everyone becomes a phony….During one of his conversations with little phoebe he confesses to her that he visualises himself as standing over a cliff overlooking a huge field of rye where little kids play and every time a child gets too near to the cliff he makes that he catches the kid and makes sure that child moves away avoiding a fall that could hurt them. He feels that the only thing he would like to do is protect these little kids. This piece of text was a perfect analogy to protecting young, innocent minds from the cruel ways and bad beings of the word. All that he would like to be is a “Catcher in the Rye”.

The relationship that he shared with his late younger brother Allie runs like an invisible thread throughout the book. When Holden feels lonely he speaks to his brother Allie as he finds a lot of solace in thinking about the child with a pure heart. Holden plans to run away to establish a simple life for himself far away from his current world but changes his mind when he understands that Phoebe does not want him to leave her alone. She even packs her little suitcase to join him!The book ends on a note Holden still trying to figure out what he wants to along with help from a psychiatrist. However he is no longer alone and is surrounded by the people who he regards in high esteem – his older brother DB and sister Phoebe.

Good book if you are a serious reader. I felt that I could not have appreciated this book had I read it in school or college but enjoyed it now!



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