The book centers around the events in the life of the narrator, a 15 year-old teenager named Holden Caulfield, a few days between the end of the school term and just before the break for Christmas. The book begins on a Saturday, the end of classes at the Pencey prep school in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. Holden has just come to know that, due to failing four out of his five classes, he is being expelled from the school but is not scheduled to leave for home till Wednesday. After an altercation in his dormitory with his roommate, who is dating the girl Holden still likes, he leaves early for Manhattan and decides not to inform his parents that he's back three days early. He goes to New York and stays in the Edmont hotel where he observes all sorts of people. Being free from any sort of restriction, he decides to take advantage of it and attempts to engage in sexual experiences which do not go off very well. Feeling lonely and alone in the big city, he contacts old acquaintances and meets with his former English teacher Mr Antolini, who advises him on his choice of philosophy and the much memorable lines: the wise man seeks to live on for a cause rather than die heroically for it. At last, he finds his way to the only person whom he thinks understands him: his younger sister Phoebe. Together they discuss plans for the future and Holden's dream: to be a 'Catcher in the Rye' and how to fulfill it.
The book was written in 1951 and though originally intended for adults, it has become a symbol for the coming-of-age pains of adolescent youth. Selling more than 65 million copies, the book and it's iconic protagonist have become symbols of teenage rebellion against the establishment. The book gives a voice to long standing ideas of identity, belonging, connection, alienation and what the youth feel to be hypocrisy in the diplomatic order of adult society.
The book is written from the point of view of a 15 year old protagonist. The style of writing as well as the language is typical of the colloquial in use by the youth of that time. The narrative follows the stream of thought of the narrator and is hence disjointed and irregular throughout, that lends it its 'angst-y' and teenage feel.
I had just heard of this book just a few days before I bought it and was completely unaware of it's significance while reading it. I was myself 16 at that time and found it a stunning read. It is pertinent for readers of all ages because everyone passes through that 'me against the world' phase at some point of time or the other. Subsequent readings bring to mind subtler aspects of the book that had hitherto slipped notice. It can be read again and again at any and every age above 13. All in all an excellent read.
Book Reviewed By Sayan Mukherjee
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