I read this book about a month ago whilst looking for my English coursework comparison book (we have to compare and contrast themes and ideas in a book of our choice to The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.) Whilst I enjoyed the book, I found it hard to compare to The Picture of Dorian Gray so I have chosen another book for my coursework. Anyway, this blog isn’t about my coursework so on with the review…
A ‘Catcher in the Rye’ is someone who catches little children as they fall off the cliff and Holden tells his sister Phoebe a story inspired by a poem by Robert Burns which goes: “If a body meets a body, coming through the rye.”
Holden is the narrator of the book and at sixteen he has been expelled from school in the few days before half term. We hear early in the book that this is not his first expulsion so we guess there are problems with school and Holden’s behaviour. Within about forty-eight hours Holden has escaped from school and gone to places that hold memories for him.
Throughout the book we hear Holden’s thoughts as he narrates; he can easily drift off the story he is telling either by being reminiscent of his childhood or by having a sudden change of mood or plan. This made following the structure of the story quite hard for me but does show the rate at which our mind works, especially as a teen when we’re learning and developing. Holden does also talk about his family quite a bit, he talks of his parents, Phoebe and his two brothers (one may have died or been ill but Holden never specifies.)
Holden manages to sneak into his house to see his sister Phoebe, he talks to her for a while about his school and how his parents will react when they find out he has been expelled. The pair are quite close and Holden thinks very highly of his younger sister as the “better, brighter child”. However, the next day the pair meet in secret and have an argument. The story rapidly escalates from here; Phoebe rides a carousel while Holden watches in the rain… the next thing we know, Holden is ill and in some kind of sanitarium.
In a way the book reminded me of a diary because Holden accounts every action he takes over this forty-eight hour period but he never really delves enough into himself that we feel we know him- it’s like he already expects us to know it all. This also means that there are lots of ambiguities with Holden’s behaviour and illness, which he doesn’t go into any detail about. The story ends with Holden being optimistic about his future and seeing his family again.
I hope you enjoyed this blog- Alice.