The Catcher in the Rye: An Honest View of the Lonely American Teenager

Zoleta, Julienne, Reporter

Out of the many controversial novels to continue finding its way into our libraries, The Catcher in the Rye may be one of the most iconic. J.D. Salinger’s story displays themes of isolation, the terrors of expressing yourself to society, and, yes, teenage angst. Yet, reading through Holden Caulfield’s life can show just about anyone the slight resemblance of angst.


Before even reading the book, I had always imagined The Catcher in the Rye to be a satirical tale, revolving around a group of friends in a modern setting. I got those impressions from the use of the novel and its title in the media. For the time it was written and published, at least, it was considered to be modern. Every other perception of mine, however, was proven to be incorrect; the novel exudes an extreme sense of loneliness and emotional vulnerability, proven by the narrator’s cynical and somewhat angry notions. It also focuses on one singular character, sixteen year-old Holden Caulfield.


At the very beginning of the story, Holden has just been expelled from his boarding school (though it wouldn’t be the first time), and he begins to make the journey home through the bustling world of New York. His parents, however, are not aware of his latest expulsion, so he ventures the city on his own, socializing, drinking, and contemplating where the ducks go when winter comes. A lot about his character is revealed, involving both why he is so obsessed with children keeping a hold of their innocence and why he thinks all other people are so cruel.


In many ways, this insight to Holden’s thoughts is similar to what many teenagers feel today. After reading the book’s 234 pages, I realized that I found myself in a new perspective of the modern adolescent society. From what I’ve gathered, the general populace of teenagers today are all cynics, or pessimists, and long for the greater days of their youth. We are sad, and angry at those who choose to never understand us, while doing our best to stay as positive as we can in the face of adversity, whether it be adults, oppression, or ourselves. While we may all be able to relate to Holden Caulfield, that doesn’t mean he’s the perfect teenage character. We all have our flaws. So does he. At least, this novel reveals that truth.