The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger

SO, this the famous masterpiece by the Salinger. Who doesn’t know this book?

Well, me.

Me and most others Indonesian, to be precise. (Okay, me and most other Indonesian that I know, to be even more precise.)

Especially since we’ve never been assigned to this kind of reading.

And since, despite most of friends in my circle are devoted readers and diligent students, most people Indonesians I know are not very fond of reading, even to read for pleasure.

Let me make this clear first, though: I’m not a diligent student, and I hate reading textbook, especially the thick one, and most especially, if I need to memorize all that I read later for the test. Oh, I hate test too.

But to read for pleasure, without any demand and obligation to memorize everything on the book, is definitely a pleasure to me.

My friend once asked me what books that I prefer to read, and after thinking for some time (and after he asked me whether I like to read fantasy while offering a sci-fi novel to me), I said, “Well, I mostly read everything that is being offered to me, really.”

OK, I lied.

If you offered me a newspaper or books in foreign language that I don’t understand I definitely wouldn’t read it.

And if you’re offering me a Semantics handout (or Psycholinguistics handout), I prefer not to touch those, really, despite my undergraduate thesis revolves around linguistics.

But you get what I mean, don’t you?

I do read most novels that are recommended to me, or given to me, although the duration for the reading to finish may vary, depends on how much I like the book and how much spare time I have.

Anyway, my friend recommended this book once to me, and I found out that this book is quite famous in the States, so I became curious. I found out as well that most schools in the States mostly use this reading as one of the school assignment.

Wow.

But I tried so hard to control myself not to read any synopsis, or plot summary.

I wanted a surprise. No spoiler.

And I was. Surprised, I mean.

But not in a way that I’d expected.

First of all, I was expecting a much more mature reading, in a way that I’d expected a much more mature language, not the teenage slang like the one I read in the whole book.

Strike one.

Then I tried to be patient reading from one page to another, hoping to read some big surprises, something that would really shocked me or something.

And I got shocked, indeed.

In a disappointed way, though.

Frankly speaking, I was kind of surprised with the ending.

You know, when I was reading about all those headaches and stomach pain Holden was suffering, I kept telling myself, “He’ll die. He’ll die. He’ll die. He’ll definitely die by the end of the book. He’ll die.”

I don’t know what to expect.

I guess I was so sure that Holden would die at the end of the book because… I don’t know, because the book was so… bitter from beginning to end (Holden definitely hates everything), and if he died in the end, indeed, then it would add the sense of bitterness, I think. But maybe I was just being too sarcastic.

Way too sarcastic, maybe, since when I reached the last chapter of the book, I was like, “What? That’s it? That’s all?”

And he didn’t even call his crush, old Jane, until the end of the book!

Strike two.

Really, I don’t know what to expect.

Maybe I was expecting an explanation. An explanation to… Holden.

Gregory House
Dr. Temperance Brennan

I had this belief that there’s always a reason behind everything (yes, EVERY THING). When your someone is acting mad, something must have triggered it. When your relatives become extremely snob, there must be a reason behind that change. When your parents become extremely cruel, there must be something on their mind. Even someone as bitter as Gregory House and someone so skeptic like Temperance Brennan had a past that made them become who they are just like we know it now. Even they have reasons. So, yeah, I was actually expecting Salinger to give me an explanation about Holden. He’s bitter, alright, but something must have triggered it. I was kind of expecting Salinger to tell at least a little about his parents, and how he grew up and that. Well, I expect him to explain more than just Allie and Phoebe. There must be a reason why Holden seemed like a failure amongst his siblings while Phoebe and Allie were never so bitter. Perhaps his parents never cared for him as much as they cared for his siblings. Perhaps he was spoiled too much instead.

But no, there’s no such explanation.

Strike three.

All I see is this teenage boy called Holden who’s trying to be mature by acting cool and ignorant about everything, and he definitely gave me the impression that he’s trying to prove that he’s unlike his other ‘childish’ friends, if I could put it that way.

Yet all those stuffs, the language he use, his trains of thoughts and action, only prove that he’s indeed, immature.

At some points, I can see why many teenagers love this book, I guess. But I’ve been wondering what the hell the teachers are talking about when they’re discussing this book in-class. I didn’t even got the chance to discuss this book in my Literature Class in college.

Really, I’m curious.

So I gave in to my curiosity, and finally read some reviews about this book.

Wow. I did not expect that.

That apparently Holden is a symbolism of innocence, who’s trying to protect the innocence, as he said to Phoebe that he wanted to be “The Catcher In The Rye,” yet at the same time he also showed some maturity traits.

And that the part where he gave his hat to Phoebe is a symbol of him being the catcher, and when Phoebe gave back the hat to him, apparently the position reversed.

God, now I understand why my friends hate literature.

Maybe I’m being stupid and ridiculous by not understanding this book at all.

Or perhaps, despite admitting that I do enjoy reading the book, I had put my expectation way too high, and perhaps that’s how I got disappointed.

Oh well, perhaps I should just enjoy the book, shouldn’t I?

Anyone wanna throw tomatoes at me? Or rotten eggs, for I had written a bad review or opinion about this book?

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Published by

Laksmi

An MA student at Waseda University, Shinjuku-ku, Tōkyo, Japan. An avid reader. A language geek as well. And a book hoarder.

2 thoughts on “The Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger”

  1. I also love to read things that aren’t text books and I also was disappointed in this book. I though was forced to read this book in high school and when a novel was something I had to read I was excited about hearing a new story, but this book was hard for me to get through and I read ALL the time. I never found any redeeming qualities to Holden and just found myself not caring if he lived or died at the end. I do think if he had died it would have made a bigger impact on my as a whole but I thought it was pretty lackluster.

    1. Why it would impact you bigger if he’d died by the end of the book? Perhaps you wouldn’t mind sharing what did you discuss in class about this book? If you still remembered, of course. I think I did care if he died by the end of the book and I wonder how that would affect his friends and families if he really died.

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