Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with “cynical adolescent.” Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them.”
His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.
I get it. This book, Holden Caulfield; I get it.
Reading this book brought back memories of adolescence that I now understand better because of the way Holden reacted to them. I’m glad I didn’t read this when I was a kid; I wouldn’t have understood it at all. As an adult looking back, I completely get it.
Except for the major depression, poor language, super-rich parents and living in New York, this guy could totally be my male-adolescent-emotional-doppleganger. The phonies thing!! I totally felt like that. I still feel like that. I hate phonies.
This book is so perfectly written. It’s not clean, it’s not polished; It’s gritty and honest and it feels the way things really feel. I think that’s why so many people relate to it. It’s feels so real and makes so much sense. Every teenager goes through those feelings. My only problem with the book was that there was no real plot. It just kind of wandered. But I guess that made it more real, too, because life just kind of wanders. There’s no real plot until you look back at the end of your life and piece together all the major events that make your story.
It’s just one of those books that touched me. I will remember it and think back on it fondly. This one book understood me; What it was like to feel alienated, to be a teenager. So well done. Modern classic.
Sexual Content: Heavy (talking about sex and an almost-sex scene, some make-out scenes)
Drugs/Alcohol: Moderate (if you include cigarette smoking, then Heavy)