Described as one of the greatest American novels, The Catcher In The Rye was first published in 1951, with annual sales of over 250,000 and total sales of more than 65 million. Originally published for adults it has since become popular with adolescent readers for its themes of teenage confusion, angst, sexuality,alienation, language and rebellion. It is also steeped in controversy, mainly because of its association with key events in history – Mark Chapman allegedly took out a copy of this novel to read shortly after shooting John Lennon dead outside his New York apartment.
So what did we think of this novel? The majority felt that this was a book that they would have appreciated more if they had read it as a teenager. To most there wasn’t that connection there for the character that probably would have been developed as a teenager.
The character of Holden was our first main discussion. His character was mainly bravado. Here was a boy who was generally messed up over the death of his brother and in a state of depression. We felt he was a lonely individual but not a loner. He craved the company of others and felt mostly let down by the lack of intellectual conversation, of which he craved. Certainly the fact that he had been thrown out of schools wasn’t a reflection of his lack of intelligence, in fact on several occasions his contemporaries approached him for help, even though he perhaps didn’t reciprocate their respect.
Even though he held his contemporaries in disregard, his relationships with his teachers was still one of respect. However his lack of trust became evident when he stayed over at one teacher’s apartment and awoke to find him stroking his head. Holden interpreted this as something more than innocent and immediately ran out, only to regret his actions later on.
His relationship with his sister, Phoebe, was perhaps his only solid relationship of the entire book. He evidently adores her and is heart-broken when he falls over and breaks the record he has purchased for her. However, his attachment to his parents is certainly lacking. He isn’t looking forward to them finding out his situation of being thrown out of another school and he barely refers to them, only when he visits his sister one night.
All in all, members thought this was a fascinating snapshot in to the life of one individual and definitely a book that still felt relevant in today’s world.