Have you read: The Catcher in the Rye
A young man battles his way through a life he can't control, seemingly fighting against a society he doesn't understand or want to be a part of. Sound familiar?
By the time young people come to university I have been made aware that most of them have read this book and decided that the petulance of Holden Caulfield is for the wealthy upper-classes who can afford to brush off their elitist education and waspish, cold family. I have learned this and yet it saddens me. There is a message in The Catcher in the Rye that goes beyond class and human relationships, and it seems that this is something people have missed.
Holden Caulfield is not only the voice of a disenfranchised generation, he is a spirit of anarchistic youth that transcends labels of time or place, of wealth or poverty, of class. He is the essence of free speech, the person that we should all try to be, if slightly more articulate in our grievances if we can name them, when we are young, and the person we should not forget when we are older. His world-weariness may seem trivial and somewhat pathetic at his tender years, but does this mean he should be brushed aside as a troubled youth with no appreciation for his privileged status? There are problems in the world, and while there are people out there willing to soldier on regardless, it takes voices like Caulfield's, and like Salinger's, to point these out and try to change them, if only for a while, if they can.
The archetypal bildungsroman of the mid-twentieth-century, The Catcher in the Rye is both overrated and woefully unappreciated. Paradoxically it always manages to score a place on the 'must read before you die' lists, yet is placed well below par on the meter of young people's own sentiments of their society. This strikes me as odd, but more than that, as sad. A melancholy portrayal of the failure of the American dream though it may be, it is essentially the story of an unlikely warrior, fighting the lonely battle against an unfair world, where love is withheld, where children are subjected to profane slurs written in museums, and where things are expected of those who should be doing the expecting.
Climbing down off the soap-box for a paragraph or two, this review aims at a recommendation, and, as one of the very few books I have re-read (currently three times) despite having to study it for a year, this one couldn't come more highly.
A world we might never know (though are we not in it already? Arguable, I'd say), centred around the disillusionment of the young with a society condescendingly dominated by the old - or at least older - is something with which we can all identify. As adults we might look back fondly on our earlier anarchism, as young people we ought to be fired into action. To do something about the society in which we live, to change it for the better and not be held back by the stark realities of money or practicality, and to aim for the idyllic utopia that we deserve is a worthwhile struggle. One in which Holden failed, but will we?