The Catcher in the Rye is described as being the ultimate novel for the disaffected youth as it follows a story told by Holden Caulfield, a seventeen year old drop out who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. I actually read this book as part of my university assignment but I had always wanted to because of course it is a classic, however I was quite disappointed. At first glance the story is overly descriptive and mundane, in fact there is nothing exciting to grab your attention as a reader other than the deeper context or meanings surrounding it.
Holden was a complex narrator, he addressed us as a reader personally and in a direct manner on a number of occasions therefore bringing us right into the story however he was hard to decipher. Personally I struggled to tell his real age, it mentions that he is 17 but I kept getting a feeling that he was in-fact older looking back on his life or perhaps he was older and his mental state was that of a younger child. Holden’s mental stability was something which I questioned throughout as he numerously admits how he acts young for his age, whilst mentioning how he is ‘crazy’. Ultimately I got the sense that he was suffering from some sort of mental illness perhaps Bipolar Disorder due to his somewhat manic shift in emotions, I lost count of the amount of times he used the words depressed. From Chapter 14 I did start to make a tally for each time he referred to himself as feeling depressed and I reached 15+ therefore I’m sure if I went back through the novel it would be mentioned little more than perhaps 40 times.
Holden is obsessed with adulthood and the phoniness associated with adults, he despises phoniness but he is the most phony of all. He constantly refers to the fakery surrounding adults however he himself acts a certain way dependent on who he is around and he pretends to be something he’s not in attempts to ‘big’ himself up for example his obsession with sex, despite being a virgin he seems to suggest he is well experienced around certain individuals such as his school colleagues, he then opens up when he is alone or talking to another person that he is in-fact a virgin.
Ultimately this got me thinking about the context surrounding the novel and the construction of The Teenager. The Teenager was a consumer market created by businesses to sell products, therefore during it’s first years the Teenager was almost a foreign concept. A break between Adulthood where you are not yet an adult but you are also no longer a child therefore it’s sort of the years of self discovery. From a Business angle the Teenager is a prime market in which they can be lured into purchasing things from being surrounded by a ‘celebrity obsessed culture’. The same culture Holden tries to shun through his hatred for the Movies and the fakery and phoniness in which the Movies represents although he constantly visits them himself. Additionally from this, I then went onto regard the Gender roles in which the book offers. The double standards put onto women are used often, whilst Holden and his friends joy over the fact they manage to or want to sleep with so many women they then refer to women who sleep around as being ‘whores’. A common double standard still evident today.
Furthermore I’m unsure if anybody else would have picked up on this through their readings of The Catcher In The Rye or I have looked into it too deeply but I got a sense of Sexual Assault and the pressures applied to women in Chapter 7 specifically when Holden is referring to his friend Stradlater’s date with a girl, where he recalls hearing his date saying ‘No –Please .Please, don’t. please’. From this Stradlater ignores the girls pleas as well as Holden, later on in the book Holden discusses how it is hard to understand when a girl is really saying ‘no’ therefore this ignites the possible discussion on consent. Although it seems obvious that Stradlater had little care if the girl was saying ‘no’ or not.
Overall personally I don’t think this would have been a book in which I finally picked it up myself if my university course hadn’t listed it as a compulsory text. However I cannot deny that I am happy that I have finally read it as it is a classic and it did ignite numerous thoughts and questions although it is rather boring with it’s over descriptive nature which seemed like Holden’s stream of consciousness.
Have you read The Catcher In The Rye?
If so – What were your thoughts?
If not – Do you plan on reading it?
Let me know in the comments what you think!