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"The Catcher in the Rye" is a novel that was written by Salinger J. D. in the year 1951. This novel was initially written for adults but it has turned out to be a popular novel among the adolescents for the themes it has of "teenage confusion, angst, sexuality, alienation, language and rebellion" (Costello and Harold 11).
Evaluating "The Catcher in the Rye"
"The Catcher in Rye" is a "brilliant coming-of age" novel in which an adolescent relates "his lonely, life changing twenty-four hour stay in New York city as he experiences the phoniness of the adult world while attempting to deal with the death of his young brother, an overwhelming compulsion to lie and troubling sexual experiences" ("The catcher in the Rye Para 6). The author of this book, Salinger, has been able to capture the everlasting fear of "growing in to adulthood in the person of Holden Caulfield" ("The catcher in the Rye Para 6). Any person who has attained the age of sixteen years will be in a position of identifying him or herself with this character which is of its own kind and yet a character that is overall or universal, because Holden carries in him elements of every person. Because of this, this novel has turned out to be to be among the most popular and lasting pieces of work in the world literature.
Just as in the usual manner, the works of Salinger is of high quality, the characters of his writings are so real and he has no need of using artifice of whatever kind. This novel is a study of the most complicated problems that are encountered by the adolescents as they grow in to adulthood and the author of this book makes a choice in a wise manner to present his narrative as well as prose in a simple and straightforward way. However, this does not imply that "The Catcher in Rye" is a book that is simple and straightforward. In this book, the reader can see the author's brilliance and creativity in exhibiting overall problems in a way that is one of its own kinds. This book is a book that can be comprehended and adored on various levels and anyone who reads it will realize a fresh view of the world in which he or she lives.
The images of a catcher in the rye are clear to a high level all through this novel. However, the words of the book's title are beyond just a "pretty ditty that Holden happens to like". The author seems to sum up the theme of the novel in the title (Presseisen 70). When Holden, who has had a past that is distressing, is questioned by Phoebe, his little sister, in regard to what he would like to engage in doing when he grows older, his reply is;
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Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids, and nobody is around - nobody big, I mean - except me. And I am standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff - I mean if they're running and they don't look where they are going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day long. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it is crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be (Salinger 224 - 225).
In this conversation, the author cleverly portrays the greatest desire of Holden and expands on the theme of the book. Holden has intentions of preserving a thing of the innocence of childhood that is lost in a hopeless manner as people get in to the age of adulthood which is crazy and phony.
Salinger skillfully carries out exploration of the theme of "lost innocence" all through the entire book. Holden is shocked when he comes across bad language written on the walls of the school where Phoebe attends, a school he regards as having a role of offering protection to children against the ills of society. Close to the starting point of the novel, Holden has memory of a young girl he was once familiar with by the name Jane. He used to play checkers with this girl. He remembers that Jane "wouldn't move any of her kings" and this action Holden comes to realize as being a symbol of her innocence. At a time Holden comes to find out that his roommate at the prep school was dating Jane, he engages in a fight with him, and in a symbolic manner, this move was meant to offer protection to Jane's innocence.
The readers of Salinger's book, "The Catcher in Rye" that might be more sophisticated might question the causes of Holden's predicament. As on one hand the feelings Holden has are universal, on the other hand, he seems to be a more extreme example of a character. The driving force for the desires that Holden has is unquestionably his young brother's death. The young brother, Allie, was a bright boy and he was also a loving boy. "Holden still feels the sting of Allie's death acutely, as well as his own, albeit undeserved, guilt, in being able to do nothing to prevent Allie's suffering" ("The catcher in the Rye" Para 18). A thing that makes Holden to remember the life of Allie that was shinning but too short is the "baseball mitt" of Allie that is covered with poems which he read as he stood in the outfield.
In a rather moving instant, Holden coveys a message to the reader that "this is the glove he would want to use to catch children when they fall from the cliff of innocence" ("The catcher in the Rye" Para 19). Interestingly, Holden engages in distorting the "Robert Burns" poem which gives the title of the book. Initially it read "If a body meets a body, coming through the rye". Holden changes "meet" to "Catch". However, this is not a starting point for Holden to engage in distortion and of course he is an expert at it. Distortion conveys a message to the reader about the level at which Holden is affected by his brother's death and also shows the fears he has in regard to innocence, a theme that dominates in the book. Going through the book to the end, a conclusion can be made that there comes a point where each and every one is in need of a "catcher in the rye" and it can turn out to be a blessing to acquire one.