Essay: Catcher in the Rye

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

I’ll be honest with you. I’ve read this book before, and I have two copies of it at my parent’s house in Vermont. I fell in love with Holden Caulfield at the age of sixteen. The first time I read this book was for my English class junior year of high school. I was attending my second and worst year at a small boarding school in Vermont. It is known to most of the students as hell. For me especially, because I didn’t feel that I fit in, nor belonged there. There were many reasons that I felt this way, but the biggest one was that I was not wealthy, although I pretended to be. The next big reason was my dad, and I was close, whereas most of the students only talked to their parents if they needed money. The final big reason was that I had no interest in studying all the time or playing team sports like the other kids. I had lost my mother to cancer a year and a half before. I was not too fond of the world and many people in it at the time. When reading “Catcher in the Rye,” I met a character who was in a similar frame of mind to my own. We were both emotional messes. We both hated “phonies” even though we were also phonies. We were both sarcastic, hypocritical, and considered ourselves to be good liars.

I even tried to trick myself into believing that I was not so much of a liar, but an actress, and my life was the movie. You see, living at boarding school, I felt trapped as if I was in prison. All alone, even though other people surrounded me. Lying to myself, and everyone else was how I survived. At the beginning of chapter three, in the first paragraph, where Holden thinks, “I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m headed, I’m liable to say I’m going to the Opera” (16). That’s precisely the same sort of way that I acted at the age of sixteen. Looking back on it now, I think it’s kind of sad, yet funny.

I’ve realized how much my mother’s death affected my personality and emotional state. I also realize now why moving from Vermont to New Hampshire was right for me. If I had not lived with my Stepmother in my last year of high school, I might have turned out to be a messed up adult, or I might have ended up like Holden. Unlike Holden, I was never kicked out of any school. But at Vermont Academy, I tried my best to get kicked out so that I could go back to public school by skipping mandatory formal dinners and eating pizza downtown.

What I liked about Holden was that as screwed up as he was, he was brilliant. He still had a sense of humor and a way of charming people. But he was afraid of getting close to people. There was only one person that he showed any real affection for, and that was his sister Phoebe.

Although I was a messed up kid and had my share of problems and similarities to Holden, I was not exactly like him.

My overall analysis of Holden is not that he was crazy or Looney Tunes. But simply that he came from a family that just threw money at him and ignored him, except for his sister Phoebe. He was angry without knowing why. Holden was walking around with a chip on his shoulder, amusing himself through his lies. Until it went too far, and he had a complete nervous breakdown. In this instance, we were different, Holden and me, that is. My dad and I were close, and we talked a lot, and I knew that he was there for me. I saw many kids at boarding school that were like Holden, they seemed completely normal on the outside, but on the inside, they were a mess. The kids that I’m referring to didn’t receive the affection or attention that they so desperately wanted from their parents.

My mom died young, and my father did his best to make sure I knew I was loved and wanted and that he believed in me. Love is more valuable than an unlimited checking account.  

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