June 7, 2010

review - the catcher in the rye

Synopsis - A precocious 16-year old Holden Caulfield is kicked out of yet another prep school and chronicles his several day adventure in New York.  Holden is at once rather mature for his years yet ill equipped to handle what it means to be fully human and all its foibles.  He borders on antipathy towards the entire human race (especially the 'phonies') while simultaneously envying the position of some.  It's written in a highly vernacular style and incidently was one of the most banned books from schools.  I can see why but that doesn't discredit its literary value.

Medical relation - In today's world, Holden would most assuredly be diagnosed with at least ADHD if not several other personality disorders.  Depression would probably enter the mix as he struggles with the death of his brother.  Addiction and an inferiority complex would also probably be bantered around for good measure.
     There's also a quote related to the title that while probably not intentional, made me think of being a physician.  Holden is speaking with his younger sister, one of the few people on the planet he admires and telling her about a poem by Robert Burns.  Of course, he's misquoting it and his sister corrects him.

She was right, though.  It is "If a body meet a body coming through the rye."  I didn't know it then, though.
    "I thought it was 'If a body catch a body,'" I said.  "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'd 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 know it's crazy."

Sounds like a good conceptualization of a physician.

Conclusion - Overall, it was a good read and like a lot of good literature, there's not too much of a plot.  All that garbage about beginning, middle, and end that's taught in school goes out the window with great books.  They focus on the characters and their journey through life.  And Salinger does a great job of narrating Holden's struggles.  At the end of the book, I'm not sure if I like Holden or not.  There's confusion wrapped up around the character.  And that's the stickiness of real life which means the author did their job in telling a story that relates to the human condition.  There's one other quote I really savored in it.  One of the few teachers Holden gets along with is trying to save him from himself and gives Holden a quote from Wilhelm Stekel that goes 'The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.' 


Steve Parker, M.D. said...

Thanks for the review. I need to read it sometime.

Michael Savage often mentions "Catcher in the Rye."

I just started "Modern Times" by Paul Johnson, and that's going to take a while.


Isaac said...

It's a really easy read.

In what context does Savage mention this book?