First published back in July of 1951, US author Jerome David Salinger (better known as J.D. Salinger) released his one and only novel ‘The Catcher In The Rye’.  The tale was written following on from the author’s short story ‘Slight Rebellion Off Madison’ which was written for ‘The New Yorker’ back in December of 1946.  Since the publication of the novel, ‘The Catcher In The Rye’ has been recognised as a modern-day classic and has been both hugely influential as well as unintentionally controversial.

DLS Synopsis:
Holden Caulfield is a seventeen-year-old boy who, as he sits within the tuberculosis rest home where he now resides, reflects back on the events that took place the previous year when he was at the tender age of sixteen.

It all started back in December of 1949 when Holden received a letter of expulsion from the Pennsylvanian prep school which he had been attending.  In fact, this was Holden’s fourth school to be expelled from, and as such this latest failing would not be pleasant news for his family back at home in Manhattan.  However, with the Christmas break starting the following Wednesday, Holden had a few days to kill before his scheduled return home.

Upon receiving the letter detailing his immediate expulsion, Holden first visits his history teacher Mr Spencer to say a final goodbye.  But the farewell doesn’t go quite as well as Holden had hoped it would, and he leaves the teacher who he was quite fond of feeling somewhat annoyed.

After returning to the school dormitories, Holden’s frustration only increases further, firstly with the unhygienic antics of his neighbour Ackley, and then later on that day by the purposeful winding-up of his roommate Stradlater who had just returned back from a date with Holden’s ex-girlfriend Jane Gallagher.  Pushed too far by Stradlater, Holden throws himself at him in a fit of adolescent rage, only to be easily beaten down with a bloodied nose to show for his humiliating weakness.

Now, well-and-truly fed-up with Pencey Prep School and pretty much everything else about Agerstown, Holden decides to return to Manhattan earlier than was planned, and stay in a hotel so as not to alert his parents.  After catching a train to New York, Holden takes a taxi to Edmont Hotel where he checks in for the night.

From here on, on his own in the big city, young Holden Caulfield will experience a manic twenty-four hours which will serve as a sobering eye-opener of the phony adult world.  Not since his brief episode of kissing his ex-girlfriend Jane Gallagher across her face has Holden experienced anything remotely sexual.  But that is all about to change.  Left completely to his own devices within the many temptations of the city, sixteen-year-old Holden now has the ability and motivation to experience many of the strange complexities of adult life.  Unrestrained, Holden is about to embark upon a chaotic rollercoaster of experiences.  With the death of his younger brother Allie still very much on his mind, Holden finds that his emotions are about to be thrown into a whirlpool of turmoil.  And what emerges at the end of the twenty-four hours is someone quite far removed from the young man who left Agerstown just one day ago...

DLS Review:
Here we have another one of those seemingly odd choices for inclusion on this website.  And the reasoning behind the review appearing on here is for similar, if not identical, reasons to that of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ (1960).  It’s influential, it’s impactful and it has been re-envisioned and referenced time and time again for countless other novels which themselves fit perfectly within the general remit of the website.  And so it has its place for those reasons as much as any other.

So, swiftly putting these justifications to the side, and on to the review itself.  Firstly and foremostly it needs to be said that the tale is possibly the most prime example of a ‘coming-of-age’ story that you are likely to ever come across.  That’s pretty much the essence of the whole tale.  It’s about Holden and his young experiences of life and how the cross over into adulthood markedly changes him (and by extension us all).

Yes it’s simplistic and yes it doesn’t ever really go anywhere.  It’s all enwrapped in the emotional experiences of adolescence.  But nevertheless, Salinger has managed to deliver a storyline that is so utterly engaging, so compelling and uniquely intriguing that it captivates the reader from the very outset and keeps you completely hooked as it menders around Holden’s life over this twenty-four-hour period.

The first-person-perspective is an absolute necessity for the tale.  Without it, the story would never have worked.  And with it, Salinger has managed to portray a character that is so very believable.  Holden was no doubt modelled almost entirely upon the author himself, from when he too was a mere sixteen-years-old boy.  This true-to-life quality shines through the novel, making Holden believable, even in his somewhat exaggerated mannerisms and tightly-confined explorations.  The emotional responses felt by the character are brought through the text, with sympathies towards his plight easily established and constantly built upon.

Although simple and almost (but not entirely) directionless, the novel still has many layers and subtle depths that are explored through the thoughts and off-handed actions of our protagonist.  Seeing through Holden’s eyes the reader can so often glimpse pieces of themselves.  The struggle with trying to comprehend adulthood.  The mounting angst and need for exploration as well as moments of miniature rebellion.

And so, in a twenty-four-hour burst of experiences for our protagonist, the reader is given the front seat to the emotional turmoil that ultimately plays out the role of departure from one’s innocence.  It’s a strong and emotive subject that alone has managed to make up the entirety of this completely compelling read.

Obviously rich in characterisation as well as distinctive and bold narrative, the tale thrives upon the reader-to-narrator relationship, making the final ‘bookending’ structure play on the reader’s heartstrings so very aptly one very last time.

The novel is one to be experienced and ultimately one to be enjoyed.  It’s got a piece of every one of us in there.  And it so cleverly plays upon this purposeful connection.

The novel runs for a total of 214 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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