A quick update:
Hey guys! I know I can’t actually see you, but I’m glad to see you’re back on my blog 😊 It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything – I know, I’m lagging. I’ve just been so rushed off my feet trying to get plans out of way and done in time for Ramadan – a spiritual time for myself and fellow Muslim friends and family who will, for the 30 days of Ramadan, be seeking to strengthen a close bond to Allah by way of fasting, praying and giving charity to those less fortunate.
I’m here now though, and today I’ll be reviewing my latest read – ‘The Catcher in the Rye’! I’ve put an exclamation mark there because I’m excited to discuss this book – it was interesting, relatable and I think I read it at a time when I needed it the most.
For a start, it’s a bildungsroman novel, meaning it’s a coming-of-age novel and I found it relatable because as you all know I’m 18 (soon to be 19) and am still making the transition in my maturity and way of thinking from that of a teenager to an adult. So, although legally I’m an adult, I’m at an age where a few of the adolescent themes of confusion and alienation, are still relatively familiar. And while some of those feelings aren’t really felt to the extent that our 16 year old protagonist feels them to, they helped make sense of what I felt during my teenage years. Which is why I think that it’s a great book for teenagers.
This novel is however, very much like Marmite, in that you’ll either relate to the depressed teenager whose life is ever so bleak and thus LOVE the book. Or you’ll find Holden’s continued misery tedious, and get bored. Real quick. Maybe even just three pages into the novel.
I think I felt somewhere in the middle – thinking back to a teenage Fahmida, I related to the book, certainly, but at the same time, I can only handle so much misery. I wanted things to brighten up for Holden, I really did. More so because I could see little bits of myself in him. But they weren’t bloody brightening up.
Also, I wanted answers and I wanted them pronto.
And that wasn’t happening. Because J. D. Salinger (that’s the author), decided to write the book in an ambiguous manner, meaning that there was no clarity; everything was sort of vague. You got little clues but nothing was confirmed. And that type of writing fitted in very well with the fact that the protagonist, Holden, is for most of the book, very depressed and mentally unwell (which perhaps explains his short attention span and his providing of clues here and there as to his deteriorating mental state, before then moving from one subject to the next).
Indeed, although Holden makes brief references to “this madman stuff” which “happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down”, he never once goes into detail about what happened to him. Instead, he looks back on a period of his life, three days to be precise, over which the novel takes place, shortly after he is expelled from a public boy’s school.
Because of the fast pace and sheer number of events and situations that Holden finds himself in, by the time you finish the book, you’re a little bewildered to think that ALL OF THAT, took place in only three days.
And what did take place, might you ask?
I don’t even know where to begin, or how to explain. But things jumped from 0 to 100 real quick; Holden’s mental deterioration peaked at around Chapter 14, where he began to start talking aloud to his dead brother, Allie, and where he lets us know that “What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window”.
It’s really here where the reader can work out where they stand on this book, and Holden and his life in general. Some readers, who’ll have put up with Holden’s tedious continued prattling on about “phonies” up until now, will decide at this point that they really HATE this boy. He’s upper class, he’s “got a lot of dough” and he’s clearly had the best in life – he likens a line to a row of Cadillacs, for goodness sake! And yet, here he is. Still complaining.
Those of us who relate more, particularly if you’re a teenager, might have a different stance on things. We’ll be able to recognise that this business with spotting “phonies”, is a means of self-protection. He’s lonely most of the time and in desperate need of company because he cuts everyone off, or doesn’t really give them a chance because he sees things from an ‘outside-in’ perspective. His interactions with other people, such as Carl Luce, in actual fact confuse him which is why he isolates himself, viewing himself as being better than others. Because of this, and the fact that he does a lot of adult things, like I don’t know, going into fancy-schmancy bars and checking into hotels by himself, it’s very very easy to lose sympathy for him and forget that Holden is just a boy. He’s only 16 years old, and he’s incredibly vulnerable.
His parents are still under the impression that he is at school and are expecting him home from a break in five days time. He can easily go home, although admittedly, having been thrown out of a number of schools before, he will get shouted at. But he’s thoughtful, the main reason he doesn’t want to go home is because his mother will worry.
They’ve had a lot to deal with as a family, especially since the death of Holden’s younger brother, Allie. While reflecting on the effect this has had on his mother: “She hasn’t felt too healthy since my brother Allie died”, he doesn’t really acknowledge the toll it has taken on him. We can infer that he has been mentally unwell from as young as age thirteen, when Allie died, as he informs us that it is around this point that his parents wanted him psychoanalysed after he “broke all the windows in the garage”. And then there’s the question of whether he has, in the past, been sexually abused (?), what with all the waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-find-a-creepy-Mr-Antolini-patting-his-head business (and his reaction to this)! 😶
His life really hasn’t been a walk in the park. Money’s made things easier, for sure, but he’s just a boy, he’s human, like the rest of us. And he’s ill. Salinger makes this clear from the off. Other than the word “phoney”, “depressed’ is another buzz word used throughout the book.
Nevertheless, as the novel began drawing to an end, I felt happy because in Chapter 25, Holden’s mood seemed to lift as he looked on at his beloved sister, Phoebe, riding a carousel: “I felt so damn happy all of sudden…I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy”.
Closing the novel, Holden tells us that he could tell us about “what I did after I went home, and how I got sick and all” but he chooses not to. He does mention “this one psychoanalyst guy they have here” which strongly suggests that he has been hospitalized, and has perhaps been writing this from hospital. I know the image of him being hospitalized is rather bleak, but I don’t know, I guess I felt relieved in a way. He was in safe hands. And maybe he had turned a corner, becoming less cynical even, breaking this cycle of self-destruction. After all, he does go against what he had said about people being phonies earlier in the book, as he concludes by stating that he wished he hadn’t told so many people his story, because when you do start speaking about it, “you start missing everybody”.
If you’ve read ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, leave me a comment below with your thoughts or alternatively I can be found on Instagram: @franklyfahmida. I love hearing from you all via social media, so don’t be shy to say ‘Hey’ ☺️.