The Catcher in the Rye
J. D. Salinger’s only masterpiece. And what a masterpiece this one is. Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the book, is claimed by numerous critics and reviewers of going through a nervous breakdown. It is also claimed that the book is a narration of one night in Holden’s life. For me, that is a far-fetched objective view. And this view borders on insulting this piece of literature.
Holden Caulfield was a misfit in this world. His life-view was too simplistic and devoid of connivance, scheming or manipulation. Holden saw through people’s masks, he saw through what you and I try to be amidst society. Being dispelled out of Pencey Prep, his high school, Holden returns back to his troubled household – not as much to see his parents as much to be with his younger sister Phoebe. In this journey from school to home, he finds himself staring at the disgusting faces of humanity and asking questions which no one really had an answer to. “Where do the ducks go in winter when the lake freezes,” he asks the New York cab driver. The cab driver thinks his passenger has lost sanity and chuckles at the question. But really, where do the ducks go – you ask yourself.
The Catcher in the Rye is a powerful book. If read when one is teetering on the edge of adulthood, this book can permeate your soul and douse you with a cloak of cynicism. Life, subsequently, has to work really hard to rid you of that cynicism. That is the power of this book. And what remains, after all the cynicism wears off, is one simple thought – that of what Holden wants to be in life. When you read that part of the book, the part when the title suddenly makes sense, that is when you realize that you’ve just read one of the best books ever written. It really is no wonder that this book figures in the top 10 of almost all respectable book lists.
John Lennon’s assasin, Mark Chapman, first got an autograph of Lennon before shooting him. That autograph was on a book titled “The Catcher in the Rye”.