On the cusp of innocence and adulthood: The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

I have never despised anyone more than the fictionalized character of Holden Caulfield. Regardless, his teenage angst and cynical thoughts have led me to read J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye for the tenth time this past year. I had just turned eighteen last summer and rereading this novel made me revive that existential limbo of standing between the innocence of youth and the harsh truth that there is no going back to it.

Despite my hatred towards Holden and his outrageous vices, I couldn’t help but notice the part of me that resonated with his pain of growing up. 

Holden Caulfield is a teenager who gets kicked out of boarding school and is always on the quest to be stoically troubled—a pretentious rich kid with a personality built entirely upon irony. Holden boasts about not giving a damn about anything but then proceeds to list everything he hates about the world: from phony people, movies, his childhood, and even girls he’s just met. Needless to say, he’s a hypocritical misogynist who drifts away from reality and is standing on the edge of a cliff separating childhood from the adult world.   

With nowhere to go, Holden helplessly wanders around New York City during the holidays reminiscing everyone who had impacted his life whilst still loathing over the materialistic and superficial things people do to gain success. Even though he is a boy who can clearly uncover complex emotions, his constant criticism of everyone and everything stops him from exploring who he wants to become.

Holden has no interests, no goals and no will to make a difference. His overshadowing fear of growing up is what leads his verge to emotional collapse. In fact, nothing impactful occurs towards our teenage delinquent throughout the novel and it is solely his troubled thoughts on life and adolescence that entrances you to read more. 

The Catcher in the Rye was written 70 years ago and yet Salinger’s carefully crafted character continues to find similarities with today’s youth. From the insanity of adulthood, teenage relationships and the feeling of isolation—these are all experiences that we do too face. It’s easy to judge Holden and his crooked ways, but his underlying emotions run deep just like any other teenager testing the waters of maturity. 

If you’re looking for something with action, adventure or even inspiration, The Catcher in the Rye is definitely not the book for you. However, if you want something both raw and thought-provoking, then this is right up your alley. To tell you the truth, don’t dive in with expectations; because once you finish the novel, only then will you realise that it has already spoken to you. This is merely a tale about a boy trying to find himself through appearances, alcohol and alienation.

Just some of my favourite quotes: 

The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move….nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.”

I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.” 

The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.” 

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