“I slept in the garage the night he died, and
I broke all of the goddamn windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried
to break all of the windows in the station wagon we had that summer.” This is how Holden
Caulfield, in J.D. Salinger’s exceptional novel The Catcher in the Rye, tells the
story of the night that his younger brother Allie died.
The novel is
three days of Holden’s life as he leaves Pencey Academy, the most recent prep school that
he has failed out of, goes to New York City and kills some time. The novel is written as
if Holden is telling the story, and the only way to get a true taste of it is through
Holden’s own words.
He sees most of the world as phony, his classmates,
his parents, his professors; certain words are phony to Holden. “Grand. There’s a word
I really hate. It’s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.” Being phony is one of
many complaints he has about the people who surround him. He tells us, “It isn’t
important, I know, but I hate it when somebody has cheap suitcases.” Though later he
isn’t ready to pass judgment on bores. “So I don’t know about bores. Maybe you
shouldn’t feel too sorry if you see some swell girl getting married to them. They don’t
hurt anybody…most of them, and maybe they’re secretly all terrific whistlers or
something. Who the hell knows? Not me.”
Women give him tons of problems
which he is open about sharing. “You know what the trouble with me is? I can never get
really sexy – I mean really sexy – with a girl I don’t like a lot.” He enterprisingly
tries to overcome his women problems by hiring a prostitute. “I sort of figured this was
my big chance, in a way. I figured if she was a prostitute and all, I could get some
practice on her, in case I ever get married or anything.” Holden keeps the reader
turning the pages to find out what he will do next.
I loved this book.
Holden is one of the most interesting characters that I have ever met in a book. I went
back and forth between agreeing with him, laughing at him, and feeling very sad for him.
This is one of those books that most people read in high school English, but is worth
another read later in life.