Have you ever felt like, despite the niceness, people are fake ‘phoney’? Despite you having everything, you still have nothing? Do you think you have lost your innocence?
Well, then you might be the Holden Caulfield from JD Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’.
Cover to Cover
From cover to cover the book ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ presents a realistic metaphor. From the name of the book to the name of the protagonist in the book, everything has a subtle metaphor.
The name of the book ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is the first layer that needs to be deciphered. The interpretation of the title could be many, but one that makes sense if you read the book, we will discuss here.
The Catcher in the Rye is a continuous struggle and dilemma of the main character, Holden Caulfield, to preserve the very nature of childhood innocence before it is touched by the malicious hands of adulthood.
Holden Caulfield’s name in itself is a metaphor, his first name could be split into ‘hold on’ and Caulfield again could be split into ‘caul- protective covering’ and ‘field- here it is childhood’ so, holding on the protective covering of the innocence of a child is what ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ is all about.
One very consequential metaphor arose between the pages of the book when JD Salinger wrote
“What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse.”
The beauty of the expression is that Holden was never able to say a good-bye to his childhood so he wanted a good-by in everything he did no matter what it was.
Another beguiling group of words that hit the mark, that the entire book is metaphorical in nature came when Holden’s teacher told him, “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” Whereas to the contrary, Holden was as carefree as the wind when it came to rules because he was so absorbed to understand himself and the “phoniness” of the world.
Story Line of Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye is a two-day into Holden’s life. Holden, a 16-year old teenager, the narrator and protagonist of the book tells about his adventures before the previous Christmas.
The narrative vocabulary of the book might not seem extraordinary, but JD Salinger has made sure to keep his character as realistic as possible and has kept his vocabulary to what a 16-year old could have and use. The book has constant use of words like ‘phoney’ and ‘horsing around’ which is appropriate to the vocabulary of a 16-year old.
The Catcher in the Rye has been layered in many parts. The layers need an appropriate peel off for the readers to completely get the grasp of what actually is intended. The narrator of the story has developed a bitter taste for the dual nature of adults. He is relentlessly torn between the real and the fake self-portrayal of human beings.
As deep-rooted the protagonist is in the dilemma of the confusing world, he narrates the story where the innocence of his childhood has been snatched away from him. In various instances that unfold, Holden tells how people try to manipulate, and how people have tried to make sexual advances on him in the name of favour. He narrates the whirl of exploitation that one finds himself in.
In the book, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden has drawn unseen parallelism with his narration. The parallelism is seen how he feels out of the place in the world and views people’s behaviour as pretentious.
But on the parallel line, how he looks at his brother who died with so much purity and affection in his heart. Also, how he loves and wants to protect his 10-year old sister Phoebe is a great example as to how he still wants the innocence of childhood to be preserved.
He was pushed into the world of adults without any good-bye to his childhood which depressed him. He has always been sad and depressed but fantasized about the song ‘catcher in the rye’ which he was ignorant of as a poem.
The story takes a turn where somehow, Holden accepts the reality he is being thrown into and certainly as the realisation comes he is happy because ultimately he gets the much-needed closure. But steps not expecting anything into adulthood.
So at last, he beautifully quotes, “I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it?”
It is a must-read classic!
If you enjoyed this book review, you will also enjoy our review of ‘A Suitable Boy’ by Vikram Seth, here.