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Have you read this yet? The Catcher in the Rye

You’re a college student. You’re reading the Arts section. You should by all accounts be an intelligent, viagra capable person. So, the question is…have you read this yet?

Every issue the College Tribune will bring you a featured literary work that you should read in order to solidify your position as an intelligent, to-be-taken- seriously academic.

(If you’ve stumbled upon this section on your way to Sport, this goes for you as well!)

So get your spectacles out and read on.

 

Holden Caulfield has just been expelled from his fourth prep school for poor performance. After an violent tussle with his philandering roommate, Holden decides to leave early for a sojourn to the city, ‘a little vacation’ as he calls it, to ease his nerves, before the inevitable face-off with his parents later in the week.

The book was written in 1951 by J. D. Salinger, a short story writer from New York. Catcher in the Rye was his first and only novel. Upon its publication it was met with immediate popular success yet critics were divided. Lauded by some as a brilliant first novel, the religious press complained about its use of profanity.

Now considered a classic, Holden Caulfield shares centre stage with Huck Finn and Jay Gatsby.

The novel’s main conflict is between Holden and the grown-up world. He feels that most adults he knows hide behind a social veneer, concealing their true selves. He calls them ‘phonies‘. (Ah -ha, now I know who that guy was, on Family Guy shouting ‘Big Fat Phonie’ at Peter Griffin). However it not only the adults that irritate him but also his girlfriend Sally who is too eager to enter the adult world of superficiality and his roommate Stradlater (a play on ‘Straddle‘?) who seems singularly concerned with adding notches to his bedpost. His brother D. B. has just written a successful book of short stories and Holden considers him the best writer. He condemns him for later prostituting his talents out to Hollywood. This distrust of Hollywood was shared by the author who never allowed his book to be filmed. Holden begins to imagine himself as a purveyor of innocence, the catcher in the rye; as the children play at the cliff edge, he will save them from falling into a sea of impurity.

Holden’s adolescent ramblings may irritate some, and while he is self-contradictory on occasion, we cannot help empathizing with this disenchanted young Flâneur. The story is told in first person stream of consciousness, a style which allows us to identify more with the narrator who is able to describe his feelings in a way we would miss, if the story was told from a objective third person point of view. The story underlines that difficult angst-filled mid-teen period of alienation that many have experienced, as they come to grips with the challenges and perceived hypocrisies of the adult world.

As the hours and days wind on Caulfield’s behaviour becomes increasingly erratic and self-destructive as he careers through a boozed-fuelled New York weekend. He gets hustled by a whore and socked in the guts by her pimp, has a bust-up with his girlfriend when she refuses to elope with him, discusses The Bard with a duo of nuns and has a weird encounter with an old teacher, while never managing to find out where the ducks go when the lake freezes over in central park…

We hear a lot about his 10 year old sister Phoebe throughout, but don‘t meet her until towards the end. He describes her wise beyond her years, whom he adores as much as he did his deceased brother. Will her affection and loyalty be enough to save him from himself in the end?

 So dear reader, this writer suggests you take a sojourn of your own into the world of Holden Caulfield and see if he doesn’t get you questioning the often perplexing nature of the human condition.                                                                                                  

Colm Ryan

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