Review: The Catcher in The Rye by J.D. Salinger
I know that many of you may see no good reason to review a book that has already been deemed a classic. What’s next, are you going to review The Odyssey, Othello, “War and Peace?" Well, I just might. So, without further rambling, onto the review.
J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” boasts one of the finest displays of the first person limited point of view in recent literary history. Granted, the first person is the natural form of any narrative, but it is much more difficult to write a fine first person story than it is to stumble through a mediocre first person anecdote. Here, we have an exceptional first person story, with a narrative style that utilizes all the advantages of this particular point of view the whole way through. This speaks to an exceptional understanding of the main character on the part of the author, that, in the end, feels more like a devout play actor’s understanding of his next great role than a distant narrator’s understanding of his story’s focus. This is, by far, the novel’s greatest achievement, and one cannot help but sit in awe of Salinger’s ability write his character in such a convincing way.
This being said, at times the novel does have the feeling of relying too heavily on a presumed interest in what Holden Caulfield has to say about, well, everything. One gets the feeling at certain points in the book that substance and action in plot have taken a back seat to artful, and often intelligent, ramblings from an insane youth. This is not entirely bad, and, as stated before, the portrayal of Caulfield in the first person is masterfully done, but it does tend to drag on in some places. By the time Holden gets the idea to escape to the country, or to sneak into his parents’ house to see his sister, one gets a keen sense of relief. After tens of pages of Caulfield’s opinions on life, sex, drinking, sex, not fitting in, and (a favorite phrase of his) “getting sexy,” the reader is ready for any small piece of action, any activity at all. Though, when the story does finally begin to rise into its climax, it is immediately apparent that it was all worth the wait. The moment when the meaning behind the story’s title is made apparent to the reader is, possibly, one of the most metaphorically poignant and beautiful moments in any story, ever.
In the end (and it does seem silly to say this) “The Catcher in the Rye” is a book that every lover of literature should read. Anybody who wants to write, read it twice. You will seldom come across a more exceptional example of the first person point of view. While the plot does stagnate at times, the author’s portrayal of the character never does, and Holden is always ready and willing to provide the reader with some interesting (though, perhaps not interesting for the reasons Holden thinks it is) opinion or anecdote.
Grade(s): Story: B; Craft: A+
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