Monday, March 9, 2009

The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger - 214 pps.

Holden Caulfield, our troubled protagonist, is a disillusioned American youth whose distaste for the aristocratic status quo defines him. Holden, in my humble opinion, is ahead of his time. He is a young, confused, progressive trying to put the pieces of life together. He precipitates the ideals of the counterculture movement, and though his disdain for the wealthy and the phony is oftentimes unwarranted or misguided, it is always passionate. His biggest struggle is that he perceivecs a lack of support for his ideals from the society that surrounds him. Though the academics in his life see his potential, without an effective and formal education, he is just a lone wolf with a problem and no cause.

Caulfield is a likeable guy because he embodies so many different characteristics and elements. In one sense, he's a smaller, slightly more intelligent, Lenny from Of Mice and Men. His lack of a complete formal education causes him to make broad generalizations in his rather folksy voice. Other times though, Holden, although unadmittingly, tries to become a figure like Jay Gatsby. His strong hatred for the phony hides his secret reverence for fakeness and the power "fake" people obtain. He hates the lifestyle of the phony, but envies how much women want to be part of such a lifestyle. The idea of an aristocrat who hates the rich that is, "pretty people with problems," originates from this novel. This book adds new ideas to the American cultural consciousness; no longer are the themes of poverty, class struggle, and a rise to the top the sole foundations of the American dream. This novel opens presents the cultural and social struggles of the outsider who has all of life's necessities and who, on the surface, should be happy.

Holden's hat looks much better on Phoebe

I would say that the overriding theme of this novel is man's struggle to find a purpose and a calling that makes him happy. When the world seems fake and empty, and you're an outcast all on your own, there's not much to keep you going, except whatever that source of happiness is.