books, Reviews

The Reviewing Reel: The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger


Hold on! (Hah hah… Get it?)

But seriously. Hold on. This is about to get good.

Holden Caulfield is probably one of the most quintessential unreliable narrators of all time, along with Humbert Humber from Lolita and the omnipresent overhead voice from the Harry Potter series. He is the phony to end all phonies.

The most interesting thing about this book, I think, is how pointless the overarching narrative is. Holden basically achieves little, he’s a whiny arsehole (which I only really noticed on my second reading), and he doesn’t really have any character development either.

The holy trinity of what normally makes a Bad Character. However, in my opinion – as a reader of The Catcher in the Rye and a speculative, fantastical creative – he isn’t a Bad Character. In fact, he’s an Interesting Character. Even if he is a Bad Person.

I could write an entire essay on Holden Caulfield’s characterisation and personality defects, but I think it boils down to one circumstantial issue. He is a teenager. He is the quintessential annoying teenage character. But you have to take a step away from the narrative in order to spot that.

That’s kinda clever. Props to my bro J.D. for keeping his characters fresh and original, and making a multi-layered narrative and a book full of swearing and prostitutes in a time when American culture was strongly against any sex outside of marriage.

Do I have any criticisms? I mean… I think the writing is a little pretentious. Salinger’s method of trying to sound like a teenage boy doesn’t work in some places, and I find it hard to believe that any ‘posh’ teenage boy would ever talk in the manner that Holden does:

“I liked her. She had a big nose and her nails were all bitten down and bleedy-looking and she had on those damn falsies that point all over the place, but you felt sort of sorry for her.” The Catcher in the Ryepage 3

He talks like he’s barely literate? I get that it’s a stylistic choice, but it really gets my goat as the story goes on, and I do find it extremely unlikely that any boy would talk like that in real life. But, then again, cultural differences. Let me know if you know anyone that speaks like that. I’m interested.

However. I did grant this book five stars out of a possible five that I currently offer (other grading systems possibly coming soon). So the writing didn’t bother me enough to spoil my enjoyment of the narrative and Salinger’s writing, along with Holden’s… Eccentricities.

Ellie x

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