What’s The Fascination With Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye?


The other day I completed reading J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye after it being on my to be read shelf for a significant period of time.  As I mentioned in my post here, my brother had also been asking me to read it for quite some time now, and had even offered to lend me one of his copies.  I decided, while I was at the library last week, to go ahead and pick up the book to read, and I even added it to my Classics Club reading list.

Of course, I have been quite aware of this book’s notoriety, but I wasn’t sure why the book was so controversial.  After I completed my reading, I could definitely see why the book was as controversial as it was in 1949 when it was first published.  Foul language, the mention of sex, a boy in Holden Caulfield who clearly has some emotional and psychological issues that he must address.

While I was reading this book, I was having a hard time trying to figure out the premise, it just seemed that Holden was rambling about his activities before he was supposed to meet up with his parents in New York and they found out he had been expelled from his prep school Percey.  Not until I spoke with my brother yesterday did he tell me the setting of the story was Holden telling his story to a psychologist as to how he got to where he was.  Not once while reading The Catcher In The Rye did I pick up on the fact that he was telling his story to his psychologist in a mental facility.  Sure, there was one clue where it was mentioned to Holden that he should be psychoanalyzed, but aside from that passage, I didn’t have the slightest clue.  I thought perhaps he was telling the story to his parents.  If my brother hadn’t told me that, or I didn’t think to take a look at the Cliffsnotes for the book, I would’ve never figured it out.

Aside from the language and the mention of sex, I really didn’t see the fascination with the book, I also didn’t really enjoy the read all that much.  Personally, I just couldn’t see the fascination with The Catcher In The Rye aside from those points.  Maybe it’s really as my brother indicated to me, I simply didn’t get the book; however, there really didn’t seem to be very complex at all to me.  It just seemed like unedited thoughts and nothing more.  I’m sure there’s more to it than that, and others have seen it, maybe I simply just didn’t like the book and I should keep it as simple as that.  What did you think of The Catcher In The Rye?  What have you been reading this past week and what do you have on tap for this week?

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About Jeremy

Husband, book lover, Civil War Buff. If I could read for a living I would, but unfortunately, it doesn't pay the bills!

19 Responses to “What’s The Fascination With Salinger’s The Catcher In The Rye?”

  1. Well, personally I fell in love with the book after my second reading. I found it an exploration of coming of age. The frustration, doubts and pains of teenage boys. The whole book is an allegory of how painful it is to become an adult. It is a revolt against adulthood and an advocate for innocence, I find that clear in the allegory of Holden standing on the cliff and catching the children coming out of the rye field. I found that part heartbreaking of how we actually fall off a cliff when we become adults, not the other way around. The genius of the book is that every single motif, and imagine in it conveys that “message” like for example the red hunting hat, and how Holden uses it to separate himself from the adult world. He does not wish to grow up, and well… don’t we all at some point?

    • These are all very good points you bring up. Holden does seem quite frustrated with the prospect of maturing into an adult. Also it’s a very good point about him catching children falling off the cliff in the rye field. These points you’ve brought up have helped me understand the novel a bit more. Thanks!

  2. jumpingpolarbear Reply March 18, 2012 at 9:51 am

    I liked it. Read it as a teenager a while ago though.

    • As I was finishing the book, I felt that maybe perhaps I would’ve been much better off having read it when I was a teenager and I would’ve enjoyed it more. Thanks for dropping by!

  3. Ooops. I was supposed to comment here (your Sunday Salon post). Oh, well, I guess I can comment on more than one post, right? 😉 Like Animal Farm, it’s been a while since I’ve read The Catcher in the Rye, but I do remember enjoying it. However, I can understand you’re not enjoying it. For its time, yes, it was controversial but over the years, I think it has lost its luster. Maybe it’s the wake of Columbine. This seems mild in comparison.

    • Maybe since we’re more than 60 years since its original publication it has lost a bit of its luster. Our culture has significantly changed since then for what’s considered controversial. You’re absolutely right, given what’s happened in the last 15 years or so with schools, this book does seem mild in comparison.

  4. I must admit that I haven’t read it yet…and I have been reluctant, because J. D. Salinger seemed like such a hermit…and kind of paranoid.

    One of my favorite writers is Joyce Maynard, whose first published book came out when she was a teenager. For awhile she lived with Salinger (while in her early twenties, and which she wrote about in one of her memoirs); she described that he had several unpublished manuscripts in a safe. He was too afraid of what editors/publishers might do to them.

    Makes me curious. And maybe I’ll just have to read this book to satisfy some of my curiosity.

    Thanks for sharing…and here’s MY SUNDAY SALON POST

    • Yeah, I heard that about Salinger, and he probably was within his rights to be somewhat paranoid with publishers after how The Catcher In The Rye was treated by publishers and schools alike.

      Part of the reason why I read it was to satisfy my curiosity. Even though I didn’t particularly care for the book, I’m glad I read it. Thanks for dropping by!

  5. I have not read this one yet…. but hope to.. .you know, just to say I did. 🙂

  6. I don’t understand it either.

  7. As others have commented, I read the book as a teenager and fell in love with it. I still have the same copy I bought after my local library refused to lend me a copy without my parents’ permission (I was 13).

    I did wonder if ‘Catcher in the Rye’ has to be read within its context. As you highlighted in your post, it was published in 1949 and was quite controversial due to its language and some content. But shouldn’t a book still be a ‘good’ read outside its set time and cultural setting? Maybe I should re-visit it again, almost 15 years since I first picked it up!

    • You make a very good point about reading The Catcher In The Rye within its context. And you’re right, books can still be a good read outside of its set time and cultural setting. I suppose, my bias is also based on my overall enjoyment of the work, and in this case, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it very much. Thanks for dropping by!

  8. I read Catcher fairly recently and reviewed it on my blog. It was pretty obvious to me that he was relating the story to his analyst at the end. I thought it was kind of a interesting relic from its era, but like you I didn’t see why it would have been considered such a classic.

    I probably should have read it when I was in college. Then I might have thought differently about the book.

    Lee
    Sad Songs Blogfest!
    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

    • I must’ve just completely missed all the clues. I don’t know if it was because around the half-way point I had decided I really wasn’t enjoying it, and I closed my mind, or what. It didn’t seem like I had closed it, but unconsciously I could’ve done so. I, too, probably should’ve read it then instead of now. Thanks for dropping by!

  9. Okay, so I feel that I need to chime in here being as this is one of all-time favorite books. To all, that do not know; I am the brother that Jeremy mentions in this post. I read the book while I was in high school; not for a class mind you but because one of my teachers recommended the book to me. Being that I could not get the book in the school library (as the book is banned from most schools and still is to this day). I had to venture outside of the school to get a copy of the book. The book was just fantastic! And, yes I did mention to Jeremy that perhaps he did not get the jest of the book and how the story was being told in a cynical voice from Holden himself. The book does in fact take place being told in a “therapy” center; I am sure they had to call it that to make it sound better than a psych ward. Anyway I just like the idea of the phonies being the adults and how they never could see that they were phonies and then the people that Holden actually liked were in their own right phonies as well, he just could not bring himself to see or admit that this was the case.

    To Holden adult-hood was a scary thing, and let us be honest with ourselves here. I am sure that at some point everyone thought that becoming an adult was a little on the scary side. I remember that when adults got together, all they did was talk about things and I recall thinking man that sounds just so boring they are not playing or doing anything but talking that is no fun. But what happens to everyone when the get to that point; they do the same thing and I can see where this would scary Holden so he hides himself from such things thinking that it will never happen to them. Now, I am sure that I could go but to help along things, I will provide this like to a breakdown of the book and I have to say that it is one of the better ones that I have seen for Catcher in the Rye and I hope that it helps to better explain the book to you; http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/catcher/themes.html

    I will say as one final note, that I do not see how the book ever came to be on the band book reading list. Okay so the book was said to be found at some of the most controversial moments in our history. But that is not the fault of the writer; this was because someone took something the wrong way; why fault the literary world of such a great book?

    • I did take a look at the Sparknotes for the book after we talked on the phone about my initial impressions of the book. It made a bit more sense to me after I read them, but, it still didn’t change my overall feeling of the book. But that’s ok, I know I’m not going to like everything. I’m glad that I read it though!

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  1. March In Review | Beltwayliterature - April 1, 2012

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