“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”
I recently finished reading this amazing book “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D Salinger. The book is a masterpiece. It is simplicity at its best. It is written in what is called a subjective style from the point of view of its main character, Holden Caulfield (ref:wiki). It is a narration of this teenage boy who struggles with his identity and like every teenager struggles to discover his true potential. The book is about this boy who represents the youth and portraits the struggle of a teenager to be accepted in the society especially when he is different from others yet not any less special than anyone else. There are times in the story where it reminds me of my own identity crisis and my own struggle with being able to relate to what is accepted in societal standards and what we really want to do. I can totally relate to Holden’s dissatisfaction of every school he attends. It reminds me how poor our education system is that judges us only on the basis of marks obtained rather than letting us explore our true capabilities. Although, I never really rebelled against the education system in my country, I can relate to the disciplinary systems mentioned in the book. Back at the time, I wasn’t smart enough to identify that getting good scores and doing the expected is not the only way of “being a good student/child” and I was not mature enough to differentiate that being ordinary in terms of scores and extra-ordinary in terms of imagination/creativity and mere silliness can also be considered as “being a good student/child”.
The paragraph I stated especially made me proud that I read this book. When I first bought the book, I didn’t have any idea what the title meant and as I read the book, the title didn’t ring a bell either. But as the chapters unfolded, I came across this wonderful paragraph where the protagonist talks about what he wants to be and this was the wow moment in the book for me. Throughout the book, it is revealed that the protagonist is not doing well in his school and is a teenage rebel who struggles to be accepted in the society, struggles to make his family proud, loves his siblings and secretly admires a girl. The protagonist does very well in English, the only subject he likes and does good in. The book throws hints that the protagonist has an ability to become a good writer. And as the chapters unfold, it reveals the character of the protagonist to be gentle, kind hearted, family loving kid who wants to be accepted at his school by his friends and wants to appear cool but at the same time he cannot not be himself and not do things that he does, which leads to his dropout from every school he attends. It would have been expected and normal yet a good writing for the writer to talk about the protagonist in the way he revealed the story and end it like the way it did. But what made the book extraordinary and the writer a genius for me is the mention of this paragraph where he reveals an entire new aspect of the protagonist who aspires to become a good human being first and who wants to simply do good and not be noticed. The protagonist is not depicted as some troubled kid who struggles with the education system and wants to read and write literature but as a philanthropist who wants to do what he loves to do and live his dream.
All in all, the book nails it in terms of simplicity and honest portrayal of the protagonist. I am very impressed by this particular paragraph and I wish all the kids of all generations to be encouraged by the society to let them do what they love to do.