[Book review] JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye

Night Owl Score - 4/5 Hoots



It was a late one Sunday night that I got through with reading J.D. Salinger’s magnum opus, 'Catcher in the Rye'. It was a warm day, and so were the emotions I was left feeling, after. This lucidly written book is not so much a 'story' as it is a keyhole's view of the protagonist, Holden Caulfield’s world; his experiences and sentimentalities, his state of mind, and adventures when he is expelled from the Pencey School. Overshadowed by his dark side, Holden views everything through a lens of contempt. Despite holding vehemently onto the happiest memories of his- those with his late brother Allie, his youngest sibling Phobe, and his elder brother D.B., Holden is unwilling to look at the bright side of life. Taking everything lying low, blaming it all on his “yellowness”, Holden loses his will to do anything to change the circumstances that befall him, yet continues to be critical of them.


As the narration progresses, the readers see how he is emotional and loves deeply. He is outspoken, straightforward, and utterly alone. When his brother Allie died, Holden lost not only a sibling but also his mother, who could not bear the knowledge of her offspring’s death. His father, though he loved Holden, was not around very often. Having spent his life in expensive boarding schools, all of which he was thrown out of, Holden does not have deep emotional attachments to people, other than the immense love that he feels for his family. He is an isolated teen, drifting through life, catching eagerly onto opportunities to not be a part of the crowd yet failing, unknowingly, in doing so.


Tired of life, Holden plans, indecisively so, to run away and start a new life. However, his sister Phobe catches him moments before the escape and squashes the hopes that he had of eloping. Noncomittally, he takes her to the carousel, where he watches her ride her aureate mount. As the carousel rolls, with it go away his inhibitions and fears. Though the golden horse comes back around, the former, don’t. Whatever was left of his hate and anger towards life gets washed away as rain falls on him. It liberates him. Holden's catharsis is enlightening for the readers in the sense that the character is more than a character. With the keen insight into a teenager's life that the book offers, every reader is able to see a part of themself, in Holden. Be it his love for the world he hates, him being a pacifist in this hateful world, him seeking adventures, his struggles, his dilemmas, his love for literature, him trying to break free from the human life’s perpetual strive, or his love for kith and kin. Holden is us. Holden is you. Holden is me.

The book is a pure, refreshing read, that leaves one feeling more in touch with themself, while also feeling close to a character who was hidden from their view till not long ago. We recommend it be enjoyed while sitting in nature's lap, to feel the taste of Salinger's mastery best. This text secures a position on our list of must-reads.


A Night Owl original, this piece has been authored by Pallavi Singh.

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