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The Catcher In The Rye- J.D. Salinger - A Review

 

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The storyline is remarkably intriguing and is exceptionally simple. The reason for this book's success, in my opinion, is the way the story is told. Since the story happens to be so common (adolescent escapades) Salinger had to make the book standout in his own way. His formula for success in this case was speaking in a truly original dialect. The slang that Holden speaks, is still edgy to this very day. Salinger is a master of dialect, and it really shines in The Catcher in the Rye.

Superficially the story of a young man's expulsion from yet another school, The Catcher in the Rye is in fact a perceptive study of one individual's understanding of his human condition. Holden Caulfield, a teenager growing up in 1950s New York, has been expelled school for poor achievement once again. In an attempt to deal with this he leaves school a few days prior to the end of term, and goes to New York to 'take a vacation' before returning to his parents' inevitable wrath.

Told as a monologue, the book describes Holden's thoughts and activities over these few days, during which he describes a developing nervous breakdown, symptomised by his bouts of unexplained depression, impulsive spending and generally odd, erratic behavior, prior to his eventual nervous collapse.

However, during his psychological battle, life continues on around Holden as it always had, with the majority of people ignoring the 'madman stuff' that is happening to him - until it begins to encroach on their well defined social codes. Progressively through the novel we are challenged to think about society's attitude to the human condition - does society have an 'ostrich in the sand' mentality, a deliberate ignorance of the emptiness that can characterize human existence? And if so, when Caulfield begins to probe and investigate his own sense of emptiness and isolation, before finally declaring that he world is full of 'phonies' with each one out for their own phony gain, is Holden actually the one who is going insane, or is it society which has lost it's mind for failing to see the hopelessness of their own lives?

If you like an intelligent and clever entertaining novel, check out The Catcher in the Rye. I really can't stress enough how important this piece of literature is in the fabric of today's books.

When we are honest we can see within ourselves suppressed elements of the forces operating within Holden Caulfield, and because of that I would recommend this thought provoking novel as a fascinating and enlightening description of our human condition. However, beware... for that very reason it is not comfortable reading. 

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