The Catcher In The Rye is on the surface a simple story of a teenage boy, kicked out of his fourth school in three years, who decides to skip out early and live it up in NYC for a few days. That's it in a nutshell. Digging deeper though, it's a story of teenage angst, of depression, and a social commentary.
Reading this book for the first time as an adult, I'd have to say that it's not the type of book you get right away. It takes some thinking over before it really clicks. While I was reading it and just after I finished, I didn't get it. Now, with some space and time to think it over, it's clicked. But ask me to describe what it's about, what the message is, and I'm not sure I can. Maybe I need a little more timebefore I can get to that point.
However, I thought Salinger wrote the character of Holden Caulfield brilliantly. It takes a special talent to make people feel as strongly about a character as Salinger has done. I don't think I'd be far off the mark to say that Holden Caulfield may be one of the most hated characters of all time and that's for me is what makes the book brilliant and along with a dead-on accurate portrayal of teenage angst explains exactly why it is considered a true classic, earning it a place on most high school cirriculums and on lists such as The 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die.
Funny thing is, despite how much most people hate Holden, I rather liked him. He was a smart-ass, very amusing, and many of his observations of people were spot-on. I have to say that I agree with him in many cases. There are a lot of goddam lousy phoneys in this world. Most of us just have the sense to not call them out on it. Call it a self-preservation instinct or common sense. Whatever you call it though, Holden Caulfield was definitely lacking it.
After his little escapade, Holden Caulfield finds him self in a mental ward, and I'm just not sure what earned him that. Is being difficult and running off to find yourself really that looney? I think Holden did something a lot of people his age would love to do but won't, because of the aforementioned self-preservation instinct. Hell, even as an adult I'd love to do it.
Whatever the case, this was a well-written peace on teenage angst, self-discovery and a brilliant character study. You may not like Holden Caulfield, but I think there is a lot to learn from him and is definitely worth the read.