Catcher in the Rye Book Group Comments

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger has certainly caused some very different reactions amongst the First Wednesday Book Club members! It brought up a number of questions of what life was like in December 1949 in the USA.  The book features the memories of teenager Holden Caulfield of events occuring a year earlier and is written from a first person perspective. The 2 main questions asked by the group were: why did we like it and; why did we NOT like it?

Why did we like it?

  • Kids can empathise/identify with the story;
  • It was not introspective – showed part of being a teenager;
  • The voice was very much of that era;
  • Holden had a conscience – others in the book did not;
  • Holden showed unconditional love for his sister.

Why we did NOT like it?

  • The character was unlikable and troubled;
  • Holden appears as a ‘phoney’;
  • The exploits of Holden seem far fetched for a 16 year old;
  • Holden’s attitudes were revolting;
  • Questions were raised on the reliability and honesty of his memories of past events.

Other thoughts raised during the discussion were: that the book may be a plea by the author for us all to stop and consider what rich people are doing to their kids – creating spoilt useless kids who will grow up to rule the USA; the book is simply about mental illness and what it feels like from the inside and; was Holden autistic or sexually abused as a child?

The final question posed was – is it a Classic?
The answer was YES – kids act the same today as they did then so will always be relevant to understanding the teen pysche.