Book of the month: The Catcher in the Rye

By Jillian Smith
October 13, 2006

Sometimes going back and rereading a favorite book is something that hits the spot on a rainy day. “The Catcher in the Rye” is certainly a page turner that will make those days seem brighter.

Holden Caulfield, the main character and the narrator in “The Catcher in the Rye,” written by J.D. Salinger, is a young, adolescent cynical teen. He narrates the story from his 16-year-old life, just after he’s been expelled from prep school.

Professor James Kennedy, an adjunct English professor for Cabrini, teaches this novel to his freshman literature classes in the spring semester. “It occurred to me that a particular age group would like it,” Kennedy said and he believes that students could relate to Holden.

Brooke Shellock, a sophomore psychology and secondary education major at Stockton College of New Jersey, said “I couldn’t relate to anything he had to say. It just made it all the more worth reading to hear a completely different view on life from someone my own age.” However, Shellock said, “I also liked that he was my age and in a real place… so Holden really seemed real.”

Although almost half of Kennedy’s class would have already read the novel, no one objected to rereading it. Kennedy then went on to say that he would assign readings and students would read ahead. “It’s a change of pace, an easy read, and students truly seem to enjoy it.”

Kennedy teaches “The Catcher in the Rye” to college students because “the curse words that Holden uses can truly relate to college students, more than high school students.”

Shellock disagrees. “It should definitely be taught in high school,” Shellock says, “because it gives kids a will to read and to enjoy doing so.” Shellock also goes on to say “He gets in your head and you start to relate everyday things to Holden’s adventures and tribulations.”

The novel remains controversial to this day; it was the 13th most frequently challenged book of the 1990s, according to the American Library Association. The commonly used “f-word” by college students appears in the novel six times, with the word “goddamn” appearing 245 times. However, according to, contrary to popular belief, “goddamn” does not appear on every page.

Holden’s slang that sounds edgy, even today, is what keeps this novel on banned book lists. “The language is very real,” Kennedy explains. “The way he talks, he’s reaching to be grown up. However, Holden is slightly innocent because of his age.”

The language in the book is very laid back, almost as if Holden is holding a conversation with the reader. The beginning sentence, “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all the David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth,” really sets the tone of the novel and sucks the reader in and doesn’t spit them out until the end of the novel.

Kennedy recalls the first time ever reading Salinger’s novel. He was on a train and he was “shaking with laughter.” “The Catcher in the Rye,” according to Kennedy is “truly something. The book is hilarious, yet serious.”

Shellock really isn’t sure what made her enjoy the novel as much as she did. “I know I had a lot of fun with his little catch phrase words that he used every other sentence, and for a while, I even talked like him.” Shellock also said, “Everyone should read it at some point in their life.”

Kennedy agrees, adding, “Every time you read it you pick up on something new” something that was never picked up on the first go around.

There are a million reasons why a certain book becomes your favorite book; it could be because of the style or writing, or the action that takes place in the book. Sometimes a character catches your interest, such as Holden Caulfield. “The Catcher in the Rye” has all of these, that’s why it’s my favorite book, if you really want to know the truth.

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Jillian Smith

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