‘The Catcher in the Rye’ reveals the human nature

Carousel Cover: The book's iconic cover introduces the carousel, an important symbol in the story.

Anna Ciummo

In high school, many young people might remember the English class that forced them to read the notorious modern classic, “The Catcher in the Rye.” Because it is such a popular book to study in school, many do not appreciate it or realize the layers of meaning buried deep in the story.

“The Catcher in the Rye” is a story following Holden Caulfield, a troubled boy that swears on nearly every page. Despite his crudeness, Holden’s life is centered on the struggle to find meaning in his life. The book takes place over the period of only a few days, starting on the day he is expelled from school and runs away from his community in New York. The story is told in first-person format, so everything is told from Holden’s own head.

Those that read this book do not often enjoy it. This is probably because so many students were forced to read it, even if they didn’t like reading or studying literature. Other people do not enjoy reading the story because it is written from a crude teenager’s perspective. The grammar and dialogue is construed, and the story seems to be controlled by Holden’s depressing monologue. However, the writing style can be appreciated if taken from a critical perspective. I would argue that reading from Holden’s point of view made the story seem more like reality.

In the story, a recurring theme is being “phony.” Holden often criticizes the others around him for wearing masks of happiness. In the few days that he is on his own, I found myself wanting Holden to find another person that could be real with him. In the story, Holden is real. He has no filter, and the reader gets to experience genuineness among the other “phony” characters.

I believe that this book is excellent for study because of the many themes hidden in very small spaces of the book. I found it fun to pick everything apart and understand even more than just the surface story. The book is full of symbolism and on almost every page, the reader can find a beautiful sentence or a deep message. When reading the book, I had to keep a pencil with me because there were sentences worth reading over and over again.

Even though it is several decades old, I believe that “The Catcher in the Rye” is an important book and will be for years to come. Anyone that suffers from loneliness or wants to find meaning in life will be able to relate to Holden. It deals with many hard situations that teenagers encounter, and even touches on the issue of mental illness.

Because of the compact nature of the book, it is sometimes difficult to interpret. It is very easy to get swept up in the story and enjoy the surface of it. I would recommend reading the book, but not just once. I plan to read it many times in the future, and hope to dig up new understandings each time.

Rating: 4/5 stars