This past week I finally got around to reading Catcher in the Rye
. If you haven't read it, you can find a good cartoon summation of it here
. I have some thoughts.
Holden Caulfield is a whiny bitch. There, I said it.
I realize this book is pretty much the emo bible, and it should be, because Holden is the most emo person I've read about (trumping Charlie in The Perks of Being a Wallflower
). That being said, there's poignant emo and then there's "I'm going to pretend I've been shot in the gut and hit my roommate cause I think he's a moron and I'm never going to call this girl I like because I'm not in the mood ever to call her but I'll talk about calling her all the time and this other girl is nice but she doesn't understand me and the world is full of phonys" emo. Maybe I'm too old to read this now. Maybe if I read this book when I was 13 or 14-years-old, Holden would be my God. But as opinions go now, I can't stand the bloody bastard.
He holds everybody to a ridiculously high standard that he can't even meet himself. He dislikes anybody his own age. Girls are vapid and giggly, but he continues to hang out with him. His schoolmates are morons, but he spends a lot of time concerning himself with them, too. He walks around with this attitude that he's the only person in the world who "gets it", and those around him who don't see eye-to-eye are a waste of human space. He is also a music and movie snob. He pretty much bashes everything that is mainstream because it's corny and it will turn you into some kind of zombie. He also thinks anybody who likes these sort of things are idiots.
He is practically the blueprint for the "hipster douchebag".
As if his condescending attitude isn't enough to drive a reader mad, they are then subjected to Holden's "stream of consciousness" writing style where he repeats the same goddamn things in every paragraph. He refers to people as "old Jane" or "old Phoebe" as if everybody in the world are his long-term friends. A lot of things knock him out or kill him. Everything makes him goddamn lonely as hell. It really does, I'm not kidding. Don't ever read this book, because it might make you goddamn lonely. Or depress the hell out of you.
OMG STOP TALKING HOLDEN TAKE A PROZAC AND CHILL OUT.
The only endearing trait Holden Caulfield possessed was his life's mission - he wanted to be a "catcher in the rye". He would stand at the edge of a cliff and prevent playing children from falling over it. Something about their innocence and honesty appealed to him. Despite lashing out at his sister at the end for wanting to go away with him (which was absolutely adorable on her part), the only people he treated with respect in the novel were children. Can't really knock him for that one. Although if he can't take care of himself, I'm really curious to see how he's going to protect other people.
I just don't get it. I don't understand why anybody would want to wear a "I ♥ Holden Caulfield" t-shirt
. Did you not notice how self-absorbed this kid is? He may be sensitive, but he's definitely not interested in making other people happy, other than his kid sister.
It is very clear that Holden has a problem. He's manic depressive. He's also lonely, confused, isolated, and lacking any kind of direction in his life with no motivation to change that fact. I get and respect that - I've felt like that SEVERAL times in my life. BUT JESUS CHRIST, if you're going to write a book, at least have A POINT to it. I was subjected to 115 pages of him talking about his 3-day downward spiral into nothingness, and there was absolutely no payout at the end. At the conclusion of the novel, Holden gets "sick", ends up at a mental hospital in California, and mentions he is going to try to go back to school in the fall. He doesn't even TALK about how he ended up there because he "doesn't feel like it". I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. I didn't read an entire novel just to hear Holden bitch. If I wanted to hear people bitch, I would just look at my Facebook news feed! And I do realize that all I am doing is bitching about him bitching - the hypocrisy is not lost on me :P
Does the reader learn anything? No. In fact, Holden tells the reader that if we're ever asked to write about our past, don't. It makes you miss everything. Even pimps that beat you up because you didn't pay the hooker the extra 5 dollars she wanted. What. the. fuck.
I love a good emo novel as much as the next person. I reread The Perks of Being a Wallflower
last year and it still means as much to me now as it did back when I first read it in high school. Where does Catcher in the Rye
fail and The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Charlie has this innocence that Holden doesn't have. He's trying to find his way in the world, and it's endearing. He tries to understand how humans conduct interpersonal relationships. He doesn't look at life with this hard set of eyes, like everywhere he turns there will be another "FUCK YOU" written on a wall somewhere. He's also a few years younger than Holden, so instead of getting frustrated with him for not fitting in, you just want to pat him on the head like a little puppy and be like, "Oh, Charlie, you're adorable". Even at the end, when the reader finds out Charlie had been admitted into a mental institution because he "broke down", he comes out of his hardship trying to find the good in life. Holden is in the same situation, and he doesn't care what happens to him when he leaves the hospital. He doesn't know if he's going to try. He believes there is no good in the world and nothing will ever make him feel better.
I look at Charlie like he is a cute, innocent little bunny.
I look at Holden like he's the killer rabbit from Monty Python and the Holy Grail
. He may look sensitive, but he hates everyone and will fuck your shit up if you approach the little bastard. Not so much physically, more verbally. I feel like he's accosting me with every sentence he utters.
I guess what I'm trying to say (in the most winded and ridiculous way possible) is that I feel like I wasted my time reading this, and I don't understand why so many people think it's one of the best books every written. When I read a novel, I want to take something away from it. I want it to raise question about life, or provide me with a new way of looking at something. Maybe I expect too much out of literature, I don't know. The only thing this novel succeeded in doing was implant violent urges to beat Holden over the head and tell him to put on his big boy pants and deal with it.