Sunday, November 8, 2015

the CATCHER in the RYE - J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye. A book that captures teenage alienation in a way no other has before starts with a seventeen-year-old boy, Holden Caulfield, in an undisclosed ‘crumby place’ not too far from Hollywood (Los Angeles, California) where his brother, one who visits him practically every week, lives. There are those who assume he’s in a psychiatric hospital after suffering a nervous breakdown. Others swear he’s in a tuberculosis sanatorium because he was so sick when he neared the end of his recount. No one knows for certain where he is, and quite frankly, no one cares. When given the chance to look back to the beginning of the book, those who finish The Catcher in the Rye, who have compassion for Holden, and who care about his plight are simply relieved to know he’s not killed himself and/or gotten killed and is receiving the help he very obviously needs.

Regardless of where he is or why he’s there, Holden cynically – endearingly – narrates his story, beginning when he’s at Pencey Prep in Agerstown, Pennsylvania, a fictional town believed to be near Wayne, Pennsylvania. At sixteen, over six feet tall, partially grey, extremely thin, and out of shape, he’s been kicked out of his boarding school for not applying himself. With his retelling, it’s apparent he’s having trouble dealing with his past, his future, and his need to admit his failure to his absent and unforgiving parents. Even though they are inattentive, his parents have expectations of their son, and Holden knows his father will be disappointed once again.

After leaving Agerstown in the middle of the night via a train and upon arriving at Penn Station, Holden does everything he can to stay away from his parents’ apartment… to catch up with old friends/flames… to act as if he’s already a grown-up who lives on his own and answers to no one.  While in New York and living in a hotel, he spirals down – mentally, physically, and emotionally – until he has a breakdown while watching Phoebe, his sweet, innocent sister, ride a carousel while living in a world filled with all of the terrible things he wants to protect her from.

In a depressed and haunting manner, Holden frequently reminds readers that he can never forget Allie, his younger brother whose tragic and premature death from leukemia three years before, has changed him forever. Based on the events disclosed and thoughts shared, Holden realizes he’s becoming an adult and will soon be completely responsible for himself and his actions.

And their ramifications.

Because this reality both terrifies and depresses him, Holden dreams of becoming the ‘Catcher in the Rye’ (someone who stands at the edge of a dangerous cliff and catches children before they fall off) so he can protect young, innocent children from the same fate… from becoming an adult. Logically, he knows that there is nothing he can do for himself or others and that short of dying (like Allie died) everyone becomes an adult. Everything about this depresses him in such a way that it’s quite nearly palpable for the readers who have invested themselves in his story and the inner turmoil that comes with him.


The messages deeply embedded within The Catcher in the Rye are numerous, and are ones Holden himself seems to understand as he looks back at his very necessary coming of age adventure. First, he realizes that Phoebe and all other children must be allowed to take risks even when those risks are dangerous. Second, resisting changes – including that of growing older – is resisting life, and resisting life and its changes can lead to misery and madness.

This post was envisioned by and done for Cotopaxi. The company is an outdoor enthusiast's dream, and as you can tell, they are unique when it comes to creative ways to engage new and existing customers. Those really are my favorite types of companies. 

Thanks so much Cotopaxi for allowing me to be a part of this project. It was GREAT fun, and  - without a shadow of doubt - you have a brand new customer and fan!


1 comment:

  1. Salinger's cynical tour de force "Catcher in the Rye" is a bitter pill to swallow, but it's definitely worth it. Disaffected, yearning and wry, this is a modern classic. And deserves to be, as well.

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