Monday, January 28, 2008

Catcher in the Rye

Narrator: Tabitha of The Pairabirds

I am currently on a mission to read books that are labeled as a classic. The ones we were suppose to read in high school, but my class didn't or my class did and I didn't.

I frequently visit our local library's "bag sales;" everything you can fit in a bag for $5. So, I stocked up on a lot of the classics.

Catcher in the Rye is about a privileged teen named Holden and his aches and pains over several days. I found the first few chapters pretty funny. Holden has a very brass way of talking. It's humorous how he complains about phony people. That is, until I past the first three chapters. I quickly became annoyed by Holden's constant complaining and paranoia. At one moment, he is really excited by something, then the next he is severely depressed.

While reading this, I began to think that this was Salinger's study on mentally ill humans (in Holden's case, Bi-Polar), and this topic would elicit sympathy. Which is the sort of book I would like. However, I don't think that was Salinger's idea. Because, by the end of the book, I had no sympathy for Holden. If it were about someone who could not help their neurosis because of mental problems, ideally the reader would feel sympathy for him. The author was tried to humanize Holden in some ways by mentioning that he had a deceased brother. This is what initially got me thinking this was a mental case study. I eagerly awaited for the dead brother story to flesh out. But, it never did. The deceased brother story never was not quite developed enough for me to say, "Holden acts out because of the pain of a young deceased brother. Poor guy."

Why is this book considered a classic? I think the fact that it was written in first person added a special charm to this book. The reader is able to ride right along inside the mind of a teen (even if the teen is irritating). And, Salinger did a decent job of creating a somewhat realistic teen. Salinger used kids' slang for the time quite well (but, if truth be known, I was going to kill Holden if he said one more time that something "killed him").

I'm wondering if I read this book a decade too late. Maybe I would have identified more with the teenage hero, if I were a teenager. At the age I am now, the only response I would have for old Holden was "grow up."

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