Revisiting The Catcher in the Rye

Rye_catcherThe first time I read The Catcher in the Rye I thought Holden was a complete loser. I was 17 at the time, just beginning to get interested in American literature having been brought up on a diet of Hardy and Dickens. I was disappointed.

Everything I read told me that Catcher was a classic American novel. My teachers recommended it and yet all I saw was a loser. So this kid skips school and heads to NY, goes to bars and meets up with women. The kid has some cash and enough balls to get a whiskey in a jazz joint, So why is he such a loser with the ladies, because when you are 17 that is the most important pre-occupation in your life.

Now, somewhat older, I have reread Catcher and I find a very different Holden. He is chasing a dream, and not doing very well.

There is something he needs and it is out run by hormones. He wants the comfort of a mother. The trouble is his hormones want something else. What we end up with is the scene that so pissed me off when I was 17 I didn’t remember much past it, the scene with Sunny where Holden refuses sex with a half naked girl his own age. Now I just see a poor boy who needs a hug from his mum. I understand him better but I still don’t like him. Which is probably what Salinger had in mind and if it isn’t, it’s what I’m taking away anyway.

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