People either love or hate The Catcher in the Rye, with very few in between. I personally enjoy it, my boyfriend hates it, one of my closest friends loves it, and don’t even ask for opinions of it on internet forums. I have read and re-read this book many times, as it was one of the three books written in English that I brought with me when I studied abroad. “Nobody’s doing anything tonight and I got my homework done early. What else is there to do in the winter in Russia? Guess I’ll just have to reread The Catcher in the Rye.”
The novel is about Holden Caulfield, a teen who runs away from his pretentious boarding school because of feelings of alienation. He hops a train to New York, wanders around, and has an incident with a prostitute (basically, epic fail) and a pedophile teacher. In the end, the entire experience teaches him nothing and he feels as empty and detached as he did at the beginning of the novel. Holden’s one redemption his love for his sister–throughout the novel, he keeps thinking of her and attempts to get her a present. His feelings toward his sister can be interpreted on a deeper level as a desire to protect the innocent from the feelings of phoniness that he has about his own life and the lives of the adults he encounters. He views children as innocent and in a way misses that life.
The fact that Holden doesn’t learn from his experience frustrates a lot of people, but it was one of the things that I liked about this book. In real life, people don’t always learn from their mistakes, and teenage angst fades with age rather than experience. I also think that part of the reason why so many teachers use this book in the classroom might be to show teens someone filled with more angst than themselves.