“It’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs-if yours are really good ones and theirs aren’t”
A 16 year old mind is a like a burning furnace. Anger, rebellion, confusion and curiosity - are all muddled together into a fire of emotions. Life can be tough for a teenager. But sometimes among all this chaos lies the most unique wisdom.
‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D Salinger describes this contradiction in the most beautiful yet honest voice. Holden Caulfield is a 16 year old who has to make some big decisions. After being expelled from school, he faces an uncertain future. He leaves school early to live in New York for a few days. He is lured by the freedom of an independent life. But very soon, Holden realizes that adulthood is a place of conceit, dejection and loneliness. This loss of innocence is the central theme of the book.
At first glance, the book seems like an unending account of the rants of a teenager. But if you look closer, you see a jewel of a perspective. In his quintessential babble, Holden manages to shake you out of your prejudices. His stubborn opinions are shocking and refreshing at the same time. The book deals with the issue of identity crisis and of not feeling good enough. He talks about how the education system stifles creative expression. Holden’s experiences also underline the teenage confusions about love and sexuality.
The symbols used in the book are mundane but they bring out powerful views of the society. In the quote above, ‘suitcases’ denote the inequalities present in the world. One of my favorite passages of the book is his description of Museums. He considers them to be a metaphor for change. He says that no matter how many times you visit a Museum, the displays are always the same. The only thing which changes is you. Holden’s imagination paints a vivid picture of the world with all its beauty as well limitations.
The characters you meet along the way swirl the narrative with their quirkiness. Whether it’s the concerned mother on the subway, the philosophical NYC cab driver, or the Romeo-Juliet-loving nun - they all somehow etch in your mind. Also, New York City serves as the perfect back-drop for Holden’s adventures.
Catcher in the Rye is a book which should not be judged for its raw language. The absence of floweriness does not limit its ability to be a window to the society. The book succeeds in dissecting the facets of the teenage mind. Two days into Holden’s life reveals what lies within every teen – a burning furnace of wisdom.