A Review of "The Catcher in the Rye": The Novel that Killed John Lennon

stewi87Starred Page By stewi87, 2nd Dec 2014 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Dramatic Fiction

Can you resist the language of a New York teenager from the 1950's? You really can't...

Before we get started: a few facts about the novel

A Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger has fascinated its readers ever since it was published in 1951. It is a novel about the development of the teenager Holden Caulfield, who is at the same time the narrator of the novel. His voice is very realistic, and it is easy to identify with him for people who are suffering from the feel of social exclusion. This may be one of the reasons why Mark David Chapman referred to the novel when he killed John Lennon. Reason enough to have a closer look at the novel in the following chapters.

Holden Caulfield: the struggling teenager

Novels about the development of teenagers are very important, because they show a lot about the expectations of society about what a successful person should look like. Holden Caulfield is a model teenager who struggles with these expectations. He is under constant pressure from his parents, and teachers to deliver. But somehow he does not have the energy to focus on school. The only subject he is good at, is English. At the same time there is no real role model for him available, no center that would guide his life. Thus, when he has to change school yet another time at the beginning of the story, Holden decides to run away.

Holden Caulfield: an intriguing narrator

The style of narration is what the novel really is about. Holden Caulfield tells the story in his own voice, full of New York slang of the late 40's. Here is a short example, Holden talking about a teacher and his wife whom he visits before he runs away:

"They had each their own room and all. They were both around seventy years old, or even more than that. They got a bang out of things, though - in a half-assed way, of course. I know that sounds mean to say, but I don't mean it mean. (Salinger 7)"

Beside the slang, the narrator also clearly states his opinions, which makes it even more interesting because the reader is able to learn about the thoughts and opinions of an American teenager of the time. I think the realist style of writing is the best way to depict personal struggles of a character, and reminded me a bit of Bigger Thomas in Native Son. The ideas Holden talks about most revolve around his family, school, and his sexual experiences. These topics are of course the very basic elements of the human experience.

Why should we read this novel today?

I think the most important reason would be that we still need to understand struggling teenagers. It is very helpful to see the world through Holden Caulfield's eyes for a while in order to understand the problems teenagers face in our society - The shooting of John Lennon is of course just one manifestation of the problems. Another reason of course is the unique experience of Caulfield's language, which I have not experienced in any other book I have read so far (and mind you I am a student of English literature!). So if you want a good read for Christmas, this is your book!


Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Reiss. London: Penguin Books, 2010. Print.



Catcher, Caulfield, Holden, John, John Lennon, Lennon, Literature, Maturity, Modernism, New York, Realism, Rye, Salinger, Shooting, Teenager

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author avatar stewi87
I have a degree in English languages and literatures, and I absolutely love reading and reviewing books.

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author avatar Deepizzaguy
2nd Dec 2014 (#)

I always taught that John Lennon was murdered because they are a lot Beatles fans who were offended over his comments that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus Christ. The entertainment documentaries said the death of Lennon was the first celebrity stalking death in America.

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author avatar Retired
2nd Dec 2014 (#)

This sounds like an interesting book to read. I shall definitely look into purchasing it!

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author avatar Sherri Granato
9th Dec 2014 (#)

I have heard of the book, but never really knew what it was about. Fascinating. It is amazing how troubled teens can eventually become "really" troubled adults if intervention doesn't take place at some point. Thanks for the fascinating review.

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