THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J. D. Salinger
Failing out of high school, teen-intellectual Holden heads for New York in the early 1950s with nothing to do, no plans, and a red hat. In New York, Holden runs into the 1950s jazz scene, prostitutes, homosexuals, and ample opportunities to drink himself to oblivion. Told from a first person viewpoint, THE CATCHER IN THE RYE depicts a young man's painful journey toward a coming of age.
I won't try to deconstruct the symbolism in this novel. Perhaps Holden's red hat refers to his attempts to lose his virginity and his expensive lugage is a Freudian symbol for the female. Perhaps his name indicates the need to hold onto something (certainly his dream of becoming the 'Catcher' does. Certainly sex and death underlay the entire novel. Holden attempts to confront his sexuality by picking up older women, flirting with nuns, dating a school-girl contemporary, and watching his young sister sleep. At the same time, he seems fascinated by homosexuality and fights off a homosexual encounter with an older man.
Anyone who has survived the teen years will identify with Holden's concern that he be cool even if it means not being able to enjoy music, the movies, or the company of the women he spends time with. His introspections on his brother's death are moving and further justify Holden's alienation from society.
CATCHER IN THE RYE is a modern literary classic. As such, it is not always a lot of fun to read, but provides insights into the human psyche. Not a bad tradeoff.
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