Review of The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye

By J.D. Salinger

As one of the most ubiquitous items on high school English class curriculums, this slim book seems almost to be a rite of passage in our society. As a classic example of the bildungsroman, or coming of age story, The Catcher in the Rye follows the adventures of a disillusioned teenager named Holden Caulfield who narrates the story as one long flashback while he sits in a mental hospital. Kicked out of Pencey Prep, Holden heads to New York City to stay at a hotel for a few days until his parents expect him home for Christmas break.

In the following three days, Holden wanders throughout the city, trying to enjoy his temporary independence but sapped by introspective depression at every turn.

As a reader, there are any number of interpretations to take away from the book depending on which aspects of the story you wish to stress. In any case, such a discussion is probably better left for English class.

More importantly for our purposes, this classic provides excellent examples of some of the most important techniques for any writer to master. Chief among these is characterization. Holden’s manner of speaking and outlook on life are communicated so well that it is nigh impossible for anyone who has read the book to hear the word “phony” and not think of the moody boy with the red hat. This is due to the strong and distinctive voice Holden is given. Salinger is able to provide Holden with a particular vocabulary and cant. Regardless of whether you love or hate the character, at the very least, you can immediately recognize him, which speaks to Salinger’s mastery.

Another technique he employs is the frame story. This refers to the fact that the main action of the Catcher in the Rye is a story within a story as stated earlier. In this case, it could be argued that the main rational for using a frame story was to drive reader’s curiosity and keep them reading to try to understand why Holden ended up in a mental hospital. A frame story can also be used to link together a collection of short stories or adapted to any variety of needs.

These are only a couple of examples of what has given Salinger’s novel the kind of staying power anyone would be envious of. The value of reading classics like the Catcher in the Rye isn’t limited to what you can learn from the ideas contained within but also what you can learn from how those ideas are packaged and presented.

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Categories: Book Reviews

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