“The Catcher in the Rye”: meaning and analysis of the book by J. D. Salinger

“The Catcher in the Rye”: meaning and analysis of the book by J. D. Salinger Literature

Jerome David Salinger became a well-known writer with his novel The Catcher in the Rye, which depicted the inner world of a teenager with unusual subtlety. He used youth jargon. The plot revolves around a 17-year-old guy looking for himself in this world. The main idea of ​​the work is the rejection of lies and hypocrisy.

What is The Catcher in the Rye about?

The life of a guy who was expelled from school is shown. He saved up some money and planned to stay at a hotel for a few days, secretly from his parents. Holden Caulfield is a restless character, experiencing a sense of isolation from the world and the environment. He has no close friends, he hides behind ostentatious rudeness. Caulfield’s escape contributes to a radical change in his soul, which he has long expected. But the process of his maturation is not due to alcohol gatherings in a bar or dates with vicious women (although he tried all this).

In an attempt to live an independent life, the character becomes conscientious and responsible. An example that demonstrates his mental breakdown is a conversation about an escape. He wants to run away with his beloved Sally, but she does not agree, arguing that adults will not understand such an act. He responds with rudeness and leaves. He then invites his little sister Phoebe to run away with him. She does not mind at all, and collects her things. But some boredom is brewing in the guy. Holden has to be considerate and, as an adult, to take care of someone. This book is about the fact that such a desired freedom is based not on frivolity, but on responsibility. Phoebe, as a guardian angel, leads her brother to rebirth, getting rid of grumbling. At the end of his wanderings, he did not lose the ability to love his neighbor.

The meaning of the book “The Catcher in the Rye”

The novel “The Catcher in the Rye” is a very voluminous text, it contains many meanings. Many researchers believe that Salinger wrote only one book, as he put all his work into it. Firstly, the main idea of ​​the work is already reflected in the title, from which it follows that the author wants to save children from the cynicism and corruption of the adult world, teaching them, using the example of his hero, to find harmony in love and virtue. To do this, he literally catches their souls above the lowlands, teeming with evil, vice and despair.

It is not difficult to understand why the writer undertook this. The fact is that he received a very serious psychological trauma. He, like many American soldiers, was sent to war with Japan (World War II). During the landing, all of his fellow soldiers were killed, only he survived. After returning home and recovering from the shock, he became interested in Buddhism and began working on a book. Jerome Salinger realized from his own experience how adults generate violence and death around them, how they play with lives and lose without regret. 

But after all, they were not born like that, which means that something happened, somewhere, maybe already in childhood, they let in the demon of destruction, greed and indifference. The bitterness of the personality occurs gradually, and, apparently, the disastrous force of the First World War contributed to the generations that were born, and the Second turned out … Everyone was very afraid, that the chain reaction will not stop. So, the main idea of ​​the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” is the author’s attempt to break through the vicious circle, to write something good and bright for the edification of posterity, so that they understand that freedom, strength and love begin with responsibility for one’s actions.

The author, on behalf of the hero, asks the whole world the question: “Where do the ducks go?”. No one can answer, and those who try, get bogged down in a typical zaum, serrated back at school. In fact, the question is much broader: where to go to the person himself? After all, the secret is not only in the flight, that is, the change of place. There must be some other change going on. People say God took care of the ducks, but how? Is it the same with people? What to do when the river freezes? Where to fly? The restless fugitive is also on a frozen pond, he does not know where to go, in which direction to fly. For Salinger, this issue is relevant, because he himself was not easy in dealing with people, he experienced the same difficulties. It is obvious that in the novel “The Catcher in the Rye” there is also a philosophical idea arising from the religious worldview of the creator. 

The question “Where do the ducks go?” – Buddhist koan – a philosophical riddle that should confuse the student in order to lead him beyond the limits of empirical consciousness. And so it happened with the people whom the teenager interviewed: they all fell into a stupor, because their thoughts had long been limited and robbed by a mechanical routine existence, consisting of the satisfaction of physical needs. And the student will find the answer only after years of wandering and thinking, rejecting rationalism and listening to his spiritual essence. Only worldly and spiritual experience will make him wise, and not philistine logic. So Holden found his key to the mystery only by going through the trials, disappointments and insights necessary to move to a new stage of development. This cannot be subtracted in books, not explained scientifically, it must be suffered, endured, ill. which should confuse the student in order to lead him beyond the limits of empirical consciousness. And so it happened with the people whom the teenager interviewed: they all fell into a stupor, because their thoughts had long been limited and robbed by a mechanical routine existence, consisting of the satisfaction of physical needs. And the student will find the answer only after years of wandering and thinking, rejecting rationalism and listening to his spiritual essence. Only worldly and spiritual experience will make him wise, and not philistine logic. 

So Holden found his key to the mystery only by going through the trials, disappointments and insights necessary to move to a new stage of development. This cannot be subtracted in books, not explained scientifically, it must be suffered, endured, ill. which should confuse the student in order to lead him beyond the limits of empirical consciousness. And so it happened with the people whom the teenager interviewed: they all fell into a stupor, because their thoughts had long been limited and robbed by a mechanical routine existence, consisting of the satisfaction of physical needs. And the student will find the answer only after years of wandering and thinking, rejecting rationalism and listening to his spiritual essence. 

Only worldly and spiritual experience will make him wise, and not philistine logic. So Holden found his key to the mystery only by going through the trials, disappointments and insights necessary to move to a new stage of development. This cannot be subtracted in books, not explained scientifically, it must be suffered, endured, ill. And so it happened with the people whom the teenager interviewed: they all fell into a stupor, because their thoughts had long been limited and robbed by a mechanical routine existence, consisting of the satisfaction of physical needs. And the student will find the answer only after years of wandering and thinking, rejecting rationalism and listening to his spiritual essence. Only worldly and spiritual experience will make him wise, and not philistine logic. 

So Holden found his key to the mystery only by going through the trials, disappointments and insights necessary to move to a new stage of development. This cannot be subtracted in books, not explained scientifically, it must be suffered, endured, ill. And so it happened with the people whom the teenager interviewed: they all fell into a stupor, because their thoughts had long been limited and robbed by a mechanical routine existence, consisting of the satisfaction of physical needs. And the student will find the answer only after years of wandering and thinking, rejecting rationalism and listening to his spiritual essence. Only worldly and spiritual experience will make him wise, and not philistine logic. So Holden found his key to the mystery only by going through the trials, disappointments and insights necessary to move to a new stage of development. This cannot be subtracted in books, not explained scientifically, it must be suffered, endured, ill. 

And the student will find the answer only after years of wandering and thinking, rejecting rationalism and listening to his spiritual essence. Only worldly and spiritual experience will make him wise, and not philistine logic. So Holden found his key to the mystery only by going through the trials, disappointments and insights necessary to move to a new stage of development. This cannot be subtracted in books, not explained scientifically, it must be suffered, endured, ill. And the student will find the answer only after years of wandering and thinking, rejecting rationalism and listening to his spiritual essence. Only worldly and spiritual experience will make him wise, and not philistine logic. So Holden found his key to the mystery only by going through the trials, disappointments and insights necessary to move to a new stage of development. This cannot be subtracted in books, not explained scientifically, it must be suffered, endured, ill.

Analysis of the book “The Catcher in the Rye”"The Catcher in the Rye": the meaning, analysis and problems of the book by Jerome Salinger

Books on this subject are a little hard to read. But Salinger’s work is built quite elementarily, events follow one after another, so the reader is presented with a complete picture of the character’s life.

The character of the boy, his aspirations, emotions, relationships with others are carefully described. At first, Caulfield is shown as a negative character: he often loses his temper, likes to lie, studies poorly. But then the good qualities of a young man are revealed: kindness, truthfulness, the ability to love.

The history of the creation of the book “The Catcher in the Rye”

Work on the work was carried out by Salinger for almost 10 years. He completed the work in 1951. In American society, the publication of the work resonated very strongly, dividing them into an enthusiastic audience and those who criticized it mercilessly (due to the mass of slang and obscene expressions).

But the penetrating psychologism of the work, raising the pressing problems of adolescents, the topicality made Salinger’s novel the most read book of the 20th century. The novel was translated into many languages, it was included in the compulsory school curriculum.

The meaning of the title of the book “The Catcher in the Rye”

A reference is made to the biblical motifs that are considered in the novel. The main character of the work realizes that his life goal is to protect children from the harsh reality. Holden wants to prevent the desecration of pure children’s souls, to protect them from dirt and heartlessness.

Specific sources say that the name may be based on a legend associated with the fields: there was an opinion that lovers went on dates to the fields in order to remain unnoticed there. It turns out that the field with rye symbolizes the transition from the stage of childhood to adulthood, to the formation of the individual.

During a walk, a song of a little boy singing about children playing in rye accidentally reaches the ears of the main character. Caulfield really likes this song. After a while, he realizes that he dreams of only one thing – to become a “catcher”.

Problems of the book “The Catcher in the Rye”

The problems raised by the writer are topical to this day:

  • indifference: people fence themselves off from each other; no one wants to listen to another, but wants to speak out himself, which is why misunderstanding occurs;
  • family relationships: the guy’s not very close relationship with his parents pushed him to fight with the adult world;
  • first love: shyness, shyness do not allow the character to reveal his feelings;
  • the maximalism of a young man, a heightened sense of justice.

Caulfield is growing up with difficulty. He is afraid of reality, full of untruth and hypocrisy. In search of the meaning of life, a teenager often makes mistakes, but these mistakes contribute to a set of life experience.

What does the book “The Catcher in the Rye” teach?

This work is instructive. It is written on behalf of a teenager, but the novel’s target audience is not necessarily teenagers. Adults also have a lot to learn, because when they read the novel, they get a unique opportunity to look at their world, at their “games” from the outside.

Of course, first of all, the novel teaches sincerity. The main character, Holden Caulfield, repeatedly tells lies. He talks about teachers who start behaving differently when the principal comes. But this observation, in fact, concerns not only teachers. After all, many “reincarnate”, adapt to the situation, behave unnaturally when they want to please someone. There are people who are ready for meanness, for example, to go for a promotion. These are all games for adults. Holden Caulfield only sees the tip of the iceberg, but these observations are already thought provoking.

The novel also teaches the values ​​of friendship. Holden Caulfield doesn’t have many friends. He communicates with the guys from the hostel, but he fails to make strong friendships. For example, Stradlater’s roommate seeks only the benefits of friendship, and Ackley from the next room is a completely unpleasant type. Caulfield considers Jane Gallagher his friend, he likes to spend time with a girl, she understands him.

Explanation of the ending of The Catcher in the Rye

Salinger’s book ends with the hero returning to the bosom of the family, albeit against his will. Caulfield intends to leave for the West in search of a better life, writes a note to Phoebe, but she comes to meet him with a suitcase and says that she is going with him. Then the brother was seriously frightened for her, began to dissuade and appeal to reason, arguing his refusal to travel by the fact that it was stupid and not thought out. He himself abandoned the idea, seeing the consequences of his desire to show off. This is how Holden’s transformation from a teenager to a responsible young man happened in The Catcher in the Rye.

In the finale, he sees his sister swinging in the rain, imbued with her pure and sincere joy. The downpour seems to wash away from him the dirt and vulgarity of those words and deeds of which he is ashamed. Cleansing frees his soul from a touch of cynicism, he seems to be reborn to a carefree childhood life (no wonder the action takes place on Christmas Eve), which he so wanted to change to an adult and solid one. But the narrator stopped dividing his path into such and not such, and this recognition of himself in any form ensured his final transition to another age level.

Main characters and their characteristics

  1. Catcher in the Rye protagonist Holden Caulfield, sixteen year old teenager. His name, which has become a symbol of youthful nonconformity, comes from the phrase “hold on a coal field” – “keep on scorched (coal) fields.” The author already in the name laid down social disorder and discord with the outside world for his offspring, and also supplemented the meaning of the title of the work. The character is kind, sympathetic, timid, well-versed in art, but at the same time irritable, impulsive and grouchy. The boy criticizes society and its morals, thinks and argues a lot, noticing the details and trifles of people’s lives, which become disgusting to him. From a state of acute contradiction with reality, he is pulled out by an escape. Cowardice did not prevent him from finding shelter in an inn and being an adult for at least three days. The teenager is very rude, often lies, but at the same time is unable to join the world of debauchery and permissiveness. For this, his character is too indecisive, and his soul is too conscientious. He subjects his behavior to an uncompromising analysis and repents of his mistakes. At the same time, Holden is not at all a pragmatist, he is a dreamer, and his wish came true thanks to Phoebe: he wanted to become a catcher of children’s souls over the abyss, and for her he became one, dissuading her from running away from home. As a narrator, he speaks in the same relaxed and rude manner that is characteristic of many young readers, they understand his language in the same way as his feelings, thoughts, experiences. The author managed to penetrate the psychology of a person who is between two frontiers. It has not yet formed completely, but it is already something that claims integrity. At first, the hero appears to us as an unpleasant grouch, who is not satisfied with everything around. He reaches out to people, constantly thinks about them, but at the same time, he gets annoyed at every little thing and eventually moves away. He tries, but does not want to grow up, stuck in a transitional period, when there is no turning back, and ahead is a haze of uncertainty. Loneliness weighs him down and elevates him in his own eyes. This image has much in common with Arkady, Dostoevsky’s teenager.
  2. Phoebe– the younger sister of the protagonist, an angelic image that has religious overtones. The girl is a symbol of love that revives Holden’s soul. She is sweet, kind, direct, but for her age she is very perspicacious: she silently realizes what is happening with her brother, and does not betray his parents with a word. In addition, an unnatural mind manifests itself in her when she embarrasses her brother with her firm desire to leave her native land with him. In such a situation, he loses a choice and takes the position of an adult from hopelessness: his sister drove him into a dead end. Not she, but he must take responsibility for what is happening into his own hands. The heroine flies to the sufferer like an angel on Christmas night, symbolizing the birth of the new and the death of the old. She fulfills the same role – heralds the rebirth of Caulfield and opens his eyes to what
  3. Stradlater is a neighbor and classmate. This is the double of the protagonist, in which selfishness has grown to unthinkable limits, and timidity and sensitivity have fallen on the sacrificial altar of a huge ego. He is handsome, rich, successful, enjoys the favor of the ladies, has extraordinary physical strength. There were already a lot of women in his life, so he does not focus on them. He does not have a particular inclination for science, but he knows who to ask for help. Likes to use people. Such empty and ordinary people do not have internal conflicts, all their mental activity is aimed at satisfying their needs to the fullest extent. Just as smug and vulgar would Caulfield be if he allowed selfishness to fill his soul.
  4. Jane Gallagher is a girl with whom Holden knew, but never found the courage to confess his feelings to her. He fondly remembers her, remembers her hobbies and the smallest details of behavior. He is in love, idealizes her, but does not dare to call, although he thinks about it all three days of his escape. Jane is a symbol of a dream that is inaccessible to an unfortunate admirer. She goes to the arrogant and self-confident Stradlater, although he does not understand her at all. This is seen as a miniature of an unfair prosaic reality: while timid dreamers yearn for an ideal, rude and narcissistic people take it by force and turn it into everyday life.
  5. Sally Hayes is the main character’s girlfriend. She is far from the romantic and sublime Jane. Judgment and practicality have already woken up in her, she knows her own worth and behaves arrogantly with those whom she considers below herself. She loves secular entertainment, enjoys communicating with different people and cannot understand why her friend is so dissatisfied. She is one of the conformists, everything in her life suits her. This is because she is unable to critically evaluate public opinion, on which she completely relies in her judgments. Therefore, in a conversation with an eternally irritated boy, she is lost and offended by his anger, because her inner world is not yet overshadowed by conflict.
  6. Allie is Holden’s brother who died of anemia. The hero always remembers him with bitterness, because his brother was very smart and talented, unlike the narrator himself. His example inspired Caulfield to do good deeds, and the baseball glove he bequeathed became a talisman for the teenager. He was secretly ashamed in front of himself that he was behaving unworthy of Alli’s memory. His image personifies all the best that is in the soul of a brother.
  7. Ackley is a roommate. He is also the counterpart of the narrator. Holden’s irritability, grumbling and grouchiness are concentrated in it. The boy is disappointed in the world, suffers from his complexes and hates those who are in any way better than him. He slanders behind his back, gladly washes the bones of his neighbors, but at the same time he does not analyze himself at all and is inattentive to those around him. Such a fate would have awaited Caulfield if he had dulled his analytical mind with envy, malice and melancholy.

Theme of the work

  • The theme of loneliness. Holden Caulfield does not feel spiritual kinship in anyone, so it is hard for him to study and keep calm. His acquaintances at school are superficial, and the loss of his brother and separation from his sister weighs on his soul. The author shows how dangerous it is to leave a child alone during such a period: he can turn off the road simply because he had no one to pour out his soul. At the same time, Salinger shares loneliness, an illness, and solitude, which is a boon for a person who is alienated from society.
  • Love. Phoebe in the novel “The Catcher in Lies” personifies angelic selfless and selfless love. It is this feeling that should bind the family so that it can withstand the difficulties of the outside world. It also changes the main character for the better. It is not the severity of parents and not expensive schools that make a person, but sincere participation, trust and tenderness shown to him.
  • Family. The boy lacked the warmth of parental care, he was not close to his father and mother. Of course, this fact provoked his disorder and anger against the world of adults. From the lack of communication with them, he does not understand what kind of people they are, since they do not know “where the ducks go.”
  • Experience and mistakes. A teenager goes through a lot of trials and temptations, often takes the wrong steps, which he later regrets. For example, his attempt to call a prostitute into the room turned into a complete fiasco, and he repents of his deed.
  • The theme of conscience. Internal moral guidelines help Holden stay on track. Unlike his self-satisfied neighbor, he does not cease to be a modest and naive boy, real depravity does not concern him. He tends to carefully consider even what he has already done and check with his code of rules.
  • First love. The hero falls in love with Jane, but cannot tell about his feelings and himself, not like a girl. He starts a relationship with Sally, but understands that the girl is different for the girl, and he needs not some, but a very specific girlfriend. In this romanticism, he differs from Stradlater, who does not delve into the features and inner worlds, he is only interested in the physical side of feelings.

Issues

  • The problem of art. The hero critically assesses the culture of his day, disappointed in his own brother for exchanging his literary talent for a job as a screenwriter in Hollywood. Holden hates movies where the unchanging happy ending always wins. He sees a disgusting falsehood in acting, so he cannot calmly watch performances and films. But he has a developed taste in the field of books, he writes well himself. This rejection reveals the personal position of Salinger, who forbade the film adaptation of the book The Catcher in the Rye.
  • Indifference. The narrator is amazed at how deaf people are to each other. They speak out of place, as if it is more important for them to speak out themselves than to listen to a person. Related to this point is the problem of loneliness, which forces Caulfield to take extreme measures. Nobody tries to understand him: teachers with their conservatism only put pressure on the nerves, neighbors and friends are superficial and obsessed with themselves.
  • Selfishness. From him, first of all, Holden himself suffers, who notices him in anyone, but not in himself. However, narcissism recedes from a heart inflamed with sincere affection for another person, and this problem is obviously solvable.
  • Cowardice. The hero is afraid of himself and the world around him, which is why he is so inspired by the prospect of saving children from falling: he himself feels like this child. He wants to hide his timidity by any means: he desperately swears, prepares an escape, tries to plunge into alcohol and debauchery, just to prove to himself that he is not a coward.
  • Deceit and hypocrisy. The narrator, although he feels falseness in other people, indulges in ugly and senseless lies himself. He describes this condition as a disease: he wants to, but cannot stop. But if his lie does not have selfish motives and flows by itself, then his friend Stradlater, for example, has a well-thought-out manner of communicating with ladies, in which he shamelessly lies even with intonations, antics and facial expressions.

Morality

The author teaches us sincere love and readiness to be responsible for it. No wonder Phoebe’s selfless love softened the hero’s ostentatious nihilism, brought him home and dissolved his selfishness in her happy laughter. In addition, D. Salinger is very sensitive to falsehood, hates lies and denounces them through the mouth of Holden. From life, he, like his character, concludes: over the abyss in the rye, hypocrisy and deceit should be feared most of all, it is they who drive into a dead end. Only the disarming sincerity of a small child can touch the ice of a hardened heart, and not the high-flown sermons of senile teachers or the artificial passion of corrupt women. The lies almost confused Caulfield himself, for which he executed himself in his thoughts, he was ashamed of him. However, in the end, he realized that in order to tell the truth, you do not need to be brave, you just need to be yourself.

The writer also talks about the inattention of people to each other, about the theater of the absurd, which unfolded among the townsfolk. The hero, for example, gets very angry when old Spencer teaches as best he can, although the negligent student admits from the very beginning that he is to blame for poor progress. But the teacher once again decided to show the power of his edifying tone and speak out, although this was not necessary. His friend Ackley is also deaf and dumb in relation to those who speak to him. He touches Caulfield’s things, despite numerous requests, and always talks only about what worries him, ignoring the interlocutor. In the end, the narrator sighs mournfully: “People don’t even notice a damn thing.” The author considers this inattention to others to be a very significant obstacle to a favorable relationship.

J. Salinger fulfilled his precepts in full: he lived more than in solitude, devoting himself entirely to his family. He professed a form of Zen Buddhism, in accordance with which it was impossible to combine creativity and publicity. He did not give interviews, talked to few people, did not comment on his book in any way. The novel is still accompanied by an atmosphere of mystery, and we can only dream of the author’s analysis of the text “The Catcher in the Rye”. In order to avoid slyness, the writer generally did not like to waste unnecessary words. Holden’s dream of getting away from everyone and hiding in a hut, pretending to be deaf and dumb, came true for his creator.

Criticism

The work was evaluated by reviewers ambiguously. In particular, many puritanical critics were confused by Salinger’s language, filled with jargon and barbs. In the Russian translation, they are not yet so obvious, but in the original, he provokes parents to protest against the novel being taught in schools. In the 1950s, activists launched a full-scale campaign against the book, declaring its immorality. The teachers who advised reading the text were also under attack. They were charged with the fact that he promotes depraved behavior, sexual promiscuity and infantilism.

In her literary study “The Philosophical and Aesthetic Foundations of J. D. Salinger’s Poetics”, I. L. Galinskaya listed several critical works devoted to the writer’s work and performed by his compatriots. For example, F. Gwynn and J. Blotner

compare the image of Holden with the image of Huck Finn, emphasizing such realistic merits of Salinger’s novel as a lively colloquial language, irony.

W. French analyzed in detail the character of the main character:

He sees the interweaving in two themes: physical ailment and Caulfield’s gradual liberation from self-centeredness, acceptance of the world that rejected him. The character of The Catcher in the Rye, the critic believes, has an inherent desire for static, and his main desire is to leave the world as it is, as evidenced, according to French, by the boy’s dream of saving children from a ravine

His reflections are complemented by reviewer Richard Lettis, who analyzes Holden’s moral choice and its consequences:

The defeat of the hero teaches the necessity and price of victory, writes Lettis. The need to strive, despite all our imperfections, to a society where Caulfield could develop and flourish, to strive for such an environment that would teach him the need for evil, deceit and even despair. …

S. Finkelstein in his study “Existentialism in American Literature” proves that the writer was inspired by existential philosophy and reflected its ideas in the novel:

The Catcher in the Rye” S. Finkelstein considers an example of “how important it is for an artist to be able to interest society in a new type of psychology that has developed under the influence of modern historical events

The attitude of the author to his offspring is commented on by the Russian critic S. Belov:

The understatement, the lack of unambiguous interpretations in his works make us recall an important aesthetic principle of Zen – the equality of the creative activity of the artist and his audience.

Also, the domestic reviewer is skeptical about the image of Holden Caulfield, distinguishing between his fantasies and actions:

In words, in the realm of fantasy, he is indeed a hero, but in reality the opposite is true. Yes, and ask him in reality to “guard the guys over the abyss in the rye” – after all, what good, he will run away, scolding both those who put him on duty and noisy kids – he will run away to new fantasies

However, at the end of his article, he comes to the conclusion that the narrator has changed for the better, forgot about rebellion and began to calmly look at the world that he so boldly hated. The closer to the finale, the less vulgarism is heard in the speech of a teenager.

It is known that the criminals were inspired by the work (for example, the killer of John Lennon, the maniac who killed actress Rebecca Schaeffer, and the man who attempted on the life of American President Reagan).

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Rate article
Add a comment