Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Catcher in the Rye

I read this book back in high school but didn't really remember it.  Last year when J.D. Salinger died there was a lot of press about whether the book was still relevant, and whether it should even be taught anymore.  Here's one example of one of these articles.

I saw it recently at a bookstore and figured it was time to reread it.  The thing that surprised me, was actually how relevant it seemed.  Holden is a confused teen who can't seem to find his place or purpose in the world.  People often talk about today's teens not caring about anyone or anything but themselves.  I'm not sure whether I agree with that, but to me this describes Holden Caulfield to a T.  He is a rebel without a clue who gets kicked out of school after school, mostly because he doesn't care.  He seems smart, just doesn't want to study.  He doesn't know what he wants out of life, and doesn't seem to have any passion for anything.

Holden has a hard time having close relationships with anyone except his younger sister.  And he often talks about his dead brother Allie and you can tell that Allie had a great influence on Holden, but now that he's dead, Holden uses that as an excuse to be "lost".  He spends a lot of time throughout the book trying to reach out to different people, but never lets himself actually connect with any of them.  Probably a fear of losing them just like he lost his brother.

What I found ludicrous though was when one reviewer said that they didn't feel that Catcher in the Rye should be taught anymore as the language is very different from the way people speak today. They felt that students today would have a hard time understanding it. That seems like a copout by lazy teachers. Should high school students not study Shakespeare anymore then either?  That language is certainly more difficult, but with a little effort and maybe some guidance from a good teacher, definitely understandable.

Overall I liked it, and am glad I took the time to reread it.  It may be time to revisit some other books from high school, one I finish my current read The Piano Teacher.

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