I'm not going to lie: getting through this book took multiple long nights, multiple cups of coffee and multiple prayers to the man above that Holden Caulfield's whiny voice would soon shut up.
I didn't enjoy reading this book in any sense of the word only a couple months ago as I sat in my literature class. As another book assigned to us, I saw it as that—an assignment; another time restraint on my confusing schedule and another grade in the grade book.
Once the end of the unit came around, I made sure I reread summaries and understood the general gist of the novel while I celebrated in my head. But once it finally came, the final day, I vividly remember my teacher, as she saw all the arms raised in the room who disliked the book, saying that anyone who had raised their hand to reread it once more over the summer and reflect again. Naturally, I only brushed it off.
Yet, here I was four months later, the beaten and battered book in my hands once again.
What drives scholars to love the book is its underlying themes of the passage into adulthood and emphasis on our deemed "societal norms" through Holden Caulfield's drawn- out teenage rebellion. Unlike classical literature, the book doesn't take a third person stance on these issues nor recites page after page of imagery. In fact, we, the readers, learn of Holden's struggles and his reactions to them through his own commentary. The book thus resembles a diary of sorts of Holden's transformation from wanting to forever stay a child into accepting his new life stage as becoming an adult. The whining I loathed so much while in school became one of the most important reasons why I love the book now.
"Catcher In The Rye" is the physical manifestation of Holden's own mind, and is as a result, is confusing and twisting and turning at points that seem unfitting to the narration through his frequent digressions and wandering. However, from a second reading, I realized that this is exactly what J. D. Salinger had wanted his book to sound and feel like. He wanted confusion, both emotional and maturity extremes, as well as sophisticated sections working together to help the reader understand not what the physical problems were around Holden, but to understand his conflicting teenage and adult mentality being at such a crucial part in his life. "Catcher In The Rye" is the story of Holden fighting against himself, and through his own narration, we are able to put ourselves in his shoes to see his seemingly bleak world through his eyes. All he wants to do is to be that catcher in the rye field to help kids from falling into adulthood.
From this perspective, I now understand J. D. Salinger's almost disappointing ending. The story told in this book was not a romance, nor comedy nor depressing read— it was the story of a boy coming to terms with his new life through his own adventures and interactions with others around him. It's not meant to be a fun journey because life isn't always fun. J. D. Salinger made sure that at the times that Holden was hurt, angry, or sad at the world, we felt betrayed as well creating such an accurate portrayal of the childish to mature mentality progression. Instead of skimming through pages of lengthy descriptions of flowers or a character's surroundings, I found myself looking deeper into Holden's rambles, reading every word and noting every shift. Holden survived through a messy journey and finally came to terms with accepting himself; I followed behind and became reflective as to where I am now.
In all, this book was a fresh breath of air into looking into the mindset of a teenager to see their perspective on the world at their crucial moment of accepting themselves as an adult. It is the only book I know that has been able to show the teenage perspective as close as it is to real life, being brutal, blunt, messy, and reflective all at the same time.
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