The Catcher in the Rye

( 1623 )


Ever since it was first published in 1951, this novel has been the coming-of-age story against which all others are judged. Read and cherished by generations, the story of Holden Caulfield is truly one of America's literary treasures.

Salinger's classic coming-of-age story portrays one young man's funny and poignant experiences with life, love, and sex.

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Ever since it was first published in 1951, this novel has been the coming-of-age story against which all others are judged. Read and cherished by generations, the story of Holden Caulfield is truly one of America's literary treasures.

Salinger's classic coming-of-age story portrays one young man's funny and poignant experiences with life, love, and sex.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316769488
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 5/1/1991
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 278
  • Lexile: 790L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 6.58 (w) x 4.20 (h) x 0.64 (d)

Meet the Author

Jerome David Salinger (January 1, 1919 – January 27, 2010) was an American author, best known for his 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye, as well as his reclusive nature. His last original published work was in 1965; he gave his last interview in 1980.

Raised in Manhattan, Salinger began writing short stories while in secondary school, and published several stories in the early 1940s before serving in World War II. Salinger published his first stories in Story magazine which was started by Whit Burnett. In 1948 he published the critically acclaimed story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" in The New Yorker magazine, which became home to much of his subsequent work. In 1951 Salinger released his novel The Catcher in the Rye, an immediate popular success. His depiction of adolescent alienation and loss of innocence in the protagonist Holden Caulfield was influential, especially among adolescent readers. The novel remains widely read and controversial, selling around 250,000 copies a year.


Jerome David Salinger, was born in New York City on Jan. 1, 1919, and established his reputation on the basis of a single novel, The Catcher in the Rye (1951), whose principal character, Holden Caulfield, epitomized the growing pains of a generation of high school and college students. The public attention that followed the success of the book led Salinger to move from New York to the remote hills of Cornish, New Hampshire. Before that he had published only a few short stories; one of them, "A Perfect Day for Bananafish," which appeared in The New Yorker in 1949, introduced readers to Seymour Glass, a character who subsequently figured in Franny and Zooey (1961) and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenter and Seymour: An Introduction (1963), Salinger's only other published books. Of his 35 published short stories, those which Salinger wishes to preserve are collected in Nine Stories (1953).

Author biography copyright 1993, Grolier, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Jerome David Salinger (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Cornish, New Hampshire
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 1, 1919
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Death:
      January 27, 2010
    2. Place of Death:
      Cornish, New Hampshire

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

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 that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They're nice and allóI'm not saying that—but they're also touchy as hell. Besides, I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean that's all I told D.B. about, and he's my brother and all. He's in Hollywood. That isn't too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every week end. He's going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe. He just got a Jaguar. One of those lithe English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He's got a lot of dough, now. He didn't use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was "The Secret Goldfish." It was about this little kid that wouldn't let anybody look at his goldfish because he'd bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he's out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me.

Where I want to start telling is the day I left Pencey Prep. Pencey Prep is this school that's in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. You probably heard of it. You've probably seen the ads, anyway. They advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hot-shot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time. I never even once saw a horse anywhere near the place. And underneath the guy on the horse's picture, it always says: "Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men." Strictly for the birds. They don't do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school. And I didn't know anybody there that was splendid and clear-thinking and all. Maybe two guys. If that many. And they probably came to Pencey that way.

Anyway, it was the Saturday of the football game with Saxon Hall. The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pencey. It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn't win. I remember around three o'clock that afternoon I was standing way the hell up on top of Thomsen Hill, right next to this crazy cannon that was in the Revolutionary War and all. You could see the whole field from there, and you could see the two teams bashing each other all over the place. You couldn't see the grandstand too hot, but you could hear them all yelling, deep and terrific on the Pencey side, because practically the whole school except me was there, and scrawny and faggy on the Saxon Hall side, because the visiting team hardly ever brought many people with them.

There were never many girls at all at the football games. Only seniors were allowed to bring girls with them. It was a terrible school, no matter how you looked at it. I like to be somewhere at least where you can see a few girls around once in a while, even if they're only scratching their arms or blowing their noses or even just giggling or something. Old Selma Thurmer—she was the headmaster's daughter—showed up at the games quite often, but she wasn't exactly the type that drove you mad with desire. She was a pretty nice girl, though. I sat next to her once in the bus from Agerstown and we sort of struck up a conversation. I liked her. She had a big nose and her nails were all bitten down and bleedy-looking and she had on those damn falsies that point all over the place, but you felt sort of sorry for her. What I liked about her, she didn't give you a lot of horse manure about what a great guy her father was. She probably knew what a phony slob he was.

The reason I was standing way up on Thomsen Hill, instead of down at the game, was because I'd just got back from New York with the fencing team. I was the goddam manager of the fencing team. Very big deal. We'd gone in to New York that morning for this fencing meet with McBurney School. Only, we didn't have the meet. I left all the foils and equipment and stuff on the goddam subway. It wasn't all my fault. I had to keep getting up to look at this map, so we'd know where to get off. So we got back to Pencey around two-thirty instead of around dinnertime. The whole team ostracized me the whole way back on the train. It was pretty funny, in a way.

The other reason I wasn't down at the game was because I was on my way to say good-by to old Spencer, my history teacher. He had the grippe, and I figured I probably wouldn't see him again till Christmas vacation started. He wrote me this note saying he wanted to see me before I went home. He knew I wasn't coming back to Pencey.

I forgot to tell you about that. They kicked me out. I wasn't supposed to come back after Christmas vacation, on account of I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all. They gave me frequent warning to start applying myself—especially around mid-terms, when my parents came up for a conference with old Thurmer—but I didn't do it. So I got the ax. They give guys the ax quite frequently at Pencey. It has a very good academic rating, Pencey. It really does.

Anyway, it was December and all, and it was cold as a witch's teat, especially on top of that stupid hill. I only had on my reversible and no gloves or anything. The week before that, somebody'd stolen my camel's-hair coat right out of my room, with my fur-lined gloves right in the pocket and all. Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these very wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has—I'm not kidding. Anyway, I kept standing next to that crazy cannon, looking down at the game and freezing my ass off. Only, I wasn't watching the game too much. What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I've left schools and places I didn't even know I was lean7ing them. I hate that. I don't care if it's a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't, you feel even worse.

I was lucky. All of a sudden I thought of something that helped make me know I was getting the hell out. I suddenly remembered this time, in around October, that I and Robert Tichener and Paul Campbell were chucking a football around, in front of the academic building. They were nice guys, especially Tichener. It was just before dinner and it was getting pretty dark out, but we kept chucking the ball around anyway. It kept getting darker and darker, and we could hardly see the ball any more, but we didn't want to stop doing what we were doing. Finally we had to. This teacher that taught biology, Mr. Zambesis stuck his head out of this window in the academic building and told us to go back to the dorm and get ready for dinner. If I get a chance to remember that kind of stuff, I can get a good-by when I need one—at least, most of the time I can. As soon as I got it, I turned around and started running down the other side of the hill, toward old Spencer's house. He didn't live on the campus. He lived on Anthony Wayne Avenue.

I ran all the way to the main gate, and then I waited a second till I got my breath. I have no wind, if you want to know the truth. I'm quite a heavy smoker, for one thing—that is, I used to be. They made me cut it out. Another thing, I grew six and a half inches last year. That's also how I practically got t.b. and came out here for all these goddam checkups and stuff. I'm pretty healthy, though.

Anyway, as soon as I got my breath back I ran across Route 204. It was icy as hell and I damn near fell down. I don't even know what I was running for—I guess I just felt like it. After I got across the road, I felt like I was sort of disappearing. It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road.

Boy, I rang that doorbell fast when I got to old Spencer's house. I was really frozen. My ears were hurting and I could hardly move my fingers at all. "C'mon, c'mon," I said right out loud, almost, "somebody open the door." Finally old Mrs. Spencer opened it. They didn't have a maid or anything, and they always opened the door themselves. They didn't have too much dough.

"Holden!" Mrs. Spencer said. "How lovely to see you! Come in, dear! Are you frozen to death?" I think she was glad to see me. She liked me. At least, I think she did.

Boy, did I get in that house fast. "How are you, Mrs. Spencer?" I said. "How's Mr. Spencer?"

"Let me take your coat, dear," she said. She didn't hear me ask her how Mr. Spencer was. She was sort of deaf.

She hung up my coat in the hall closet, and I sort of brushed my hair back with my hand. I wear a crew cut quite frequently and I never have to comb it much. "How'd you been, Mrs. Spencer?" I said again, only louder, so she'd hear me.

"I've been just fine, Holden." She closed the closet door. "How have you been?" The way she asked me, I knew right away old Spencer'd told her I'd been kicked out.

"Fine," I said. "How's Mr. Spencer? He over his grippe yet?"

"Over it! Holden, he's behaving like a perfect—I don't know what . . . He's in his room, dear. Go right in."

© 1999 by Eric Alterman "

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Table of Contents

Introduction     7
Biographical Sketch     9
The Story Behind the Story     16
List of Characters     21
Summary and Analysis     25
Critical Views     43
Carl F. Strauch on The Complexity of Holden's Character     43
Robert M. Slabey on Christian Themes and Symbols     47
Jonathan Baumbach on Spirituality     50
John M. Howell on T.S. Eliot's Influence     54
Warren French on Holden's Search for Tranquility     60
Duane Edwards on Holden as the Unreliable Narrator     64
Gerald Rosen on the Relevance of Buddhism     69
Edwin Haviland Miller on Mourning Allie Caulfield     74
Christopher Brookeman on Cultural Codes at Pencey Prep     78
Sanford Pinsker on the Protagonist-Narrator     82
Paul Alexander on Inventing Holden Caulfield     86
Pamela Hunt Steinle on Holden as a Version of the American Adam     89
Matt Evertson on Holden Caulfield's Longing to Construct a New Home     94
Yasuhiro Takeuchi on the Carnivalesque     99
Works by J.D. Salinger     106
Annotated Bibliography     107
Contributors     117
Acknowledgments     120
Index     123
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 1623 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 1623 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 14, 2009

    The Catcher in the Rye-a book for the young, old, readers and nonreaders

    J.D. Salinger's coming of age novel The Catcher in the Rye has delightfully captured the attention of readers for decades. Its popularity is primarily, but not exclusively, due to the realism behind the plot, characters, and themes. Although the story takes place during the late 1940s, teenagers everywhere can still relate to the sixteen year old protagonist, Holden Caulfield. The combination of his criticism, bitterness, and pessimism towards society was carefully crafted to create Holden as a unique narrator with many conflicting thoughts. In fact, Holden feels so torn between becoming an adult and staying a child that he essentially alienates himself from those who have conformed to one or the other. The distress and confusion of growing up is the underlying theme that follows Holden throughout the entire novel.
    From just the first chapter of the novel readers come to learn that Holden is not your typical adolescent boy. He does not hold back when criticizing his "phony" schoolmates, whose obsessions include girls, sex, smoking, and drinking. Although Holden feels compelled to engage in the latter two activities himself, he does not necessarily agree with it. He is merely trying to find a medium between childhood and adulthood. Feeling alone and isolated, Holden carries out the extreme by leaving his prep school to escape those around him already engrossed in maturing into adults. The story follows with a number of events that all contribute to Holden's intriguing journey to understanding himself; a journey many young people in the world today go on themselves.
    Because Salinger's themes are so universal yet realistic, The Catcher in the Rye is found to be satisfying and relatable to all types of readers. Holden and his struggles bring each reader back to a time in their own lives when they were going through a drastic change. For that reason The Catcher in the Rye can easily be considered timeless. The thought of keeping this novel off libraries' shelves because of its vulgar language, sexual references, and so-called promotion of drug use is ludicrous. Do not let the accusations and believers of censorship keep you from becoming immersed into the world of Holden Caulfield.

    23 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Greatest Book I've Ever Read..

    I read this book this year for school, I was in a bad mood and I ended up reading half of it in one night. Its a book that's so easy to understand, its so human. There's no action or any thrill much at all besides the everyday life of Holden Caulfield. I recommend this book to anyone who's human. Its enjoyable and relatable. Also, I love the Holden.

    18 out of 18 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 16, 2010

    "The Catcher in the Rye": More Than Timeless

    The novel "The Catcher in the Rye" by J.D. Salinger was written in 1951. However, it is still being read in schools today. Unlike many timeless novels, "The Catcher in the Rye" not only provides a strong message that still resonates today, it also is a fascinating, creative piece of writing.
    "The Catcher in the Rye" takes place in the 1940s and tells the story of Holden Caulfield, a troubled teenager haunted by the death of his little brother. The story follows Holden as he runs away from private school while hoping to find to find happiness somewhere in the streets of New York. Holden is both the protagonist and antagonist of his story. He is stubborn, rude, and judgmental without a cause. On the other hand, Holden loves his little sister and wants to protect children from the world around them. He is broken and in search of something he can't seem to find. He is searching for love. When his brother died, Holden lost someone who loved him. Even though Holden couldn't see the love depart, he feels it slipping away. Holden's parents are too caught up in their own pain to recognize that Holden is struggling. Holden is forced to bear all of his burdens by himself. It is this struggle that makes the novel timeless. In essence we are all Holden, a little lost and a little broken, but always pushing forward, looking for a glimmer of happiness in the distance. Everyone knows the feeling of being in a place where everyone else belongs. Anyone can relate to Holden's struggle to find himself in a place where people look down on those who differ from the status quo. "The Catcher in the Rye" makes the experience both poignant and humorous. Holden is a teenage boy whose thoughts are often ludicrous and socially incorrect. J.D. Salinger knew that there was more to writing a novel then just getting the message across. He accomplishes it with comedy and intrigue. It is hard not to laugh when Holden is lying to a women about his age while calling those around him phonies. "The Catcher in the Rye" is a classic because it would remain a talented piece of writing even without a moral "point". The novel merges timeless and engaging with an effortlessness that many authors can't achieve.

    13 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2009

    An awesome classic!

    I only read Catcher in the Rye for my english class, but it turned out to be one of my favorite books! I hadn't really read too many classics before and had heard a lot of negative feedback about them, but this was a great surprise! It was funny and packed with wit, and full of self discovery. There was a TON of swearing, but somehow it really fit with the characters. I loved it!

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2008

    I've Been Duped

    Having never read this 'classic,' I thought it high time I do so. There are several hours of my life I'll never get back. This book is TERRIBLE! Am I the only one who thinks so?? The writing style is cumbersome, the characters - ESPECIALLY Holden - are wholly unlikable and the story... well, WHAT story? Nothing happens! I can't believe I've felt, all these years, that I was missing out on a work of literary genius only to finally find myself suffering through THIS. I rank this as the second worst book I've ever read - and I've read many.

    12 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 22, 2008

    A good book for late teens

    I read this many years ago when I was a teenager, and then again just recently. It once again reminded me of all of the freedom a young man has compared to an adult and the book brought me back to when I was young. This is a must-read for all teens since it will give them a sort of guide as to what to do and not to do, but it will also entertain them if they are a cosciencious reader.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 13, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    It Was the Worst Book I've Ever Read

    If you want to read a book about a guy who fails at life, drinks on every other page, only thinks about sex, hates everyone and everything and ends up going crazy at the end, then this is the book for you.

    9 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 16, 2009

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    I'd always wanted to read this book because I'd always heard it was a very excellent story full of excitement about a teenager going through the phases of growing up.
    Unfortunately the entire book is about him romping around New York for 3 days on his own, not doing anything out the ordinary; seeing a movie, visiting old friends, etc.
    I was very disappointed.

    8 out of 28 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 12, 2010

    one of the worst books I have ever read...

    No plot - no real interest - forced myself to finish this book. Tried again as an adult with hopes of seeing something I missed the first go round - nope, still one of the worst books i have ever had the misfortune of reading (twice). With all the wonderful books out there why is this book still on the literature lists in high schools and colleges.

    6 out of 17 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 29, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    No wonder so many serial killers have this book in their inventory.

    Lee Harvey Oswald and other disturbed individuals have this book in their libraries. I do not like the character and think he is mentally disturbed. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

    6 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2010


    absolutely amazing. Catcher in the Rye is a wonderful novel by J.D. Salinger. I love how Holden, the main character, narrates the happenings of several of days in his teenage life. So although this book is only a few days time, it did not lack in content at all.
    I liked this book because when Holden talks, it feels like he is speaking only to you. J.D. Salinger is an amazing writer, and made me laugh throughout the book. He gave Holden a very unique and interesting personality.
    Holden goes through seemingly pointless events, though he hopes somebody will care. Holden feels hopeless and lonesome, in a world that he thinks is heartless and filled with fake people. It really makes you think about the world as you see it. Holden's beliefs and judgments alone were very amusing. After you read the book, you start thinking about situations in your life and wonder what Holden would do in your place, or at least I did.
    Throughout this book, Holden gives his opinions and observations on everything he encounters. I didn't ever want to stop reading. There are not many books i'd ever read again, but this book is one that i could read over and over again. There are so many things that didn't make total sense to me, but im sure that if i read it again, it will become more clear. LoVED IT! read IT.
    So, I loved every bit. I don't think i will ever forget it, great book from the start to finish. read it! if you start reading and it doesn't seem to be your kind of book, keep reading! you may surprise yourself.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2008

    Wasn't Missing A Thing!

    For many years I thought I was missing out on reading a great book. Turns out. No! I hated the book. I guess I can say at least I read it, and just move on.

    6 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Definitely worth my time

    I knew that "The Catcher In the Rye" was an older book because my dad had talked about how it was such a classic, even to my grandpaw. I decided to buy it and I finished it the day it was purchased. I usually don't read that quickly but it was very good. Not a lot actually happens within the time it was narrated by Holden, but the best part of the book is how the author is descriptive about things that deserve to be described and leaves out the less important things, which many other authors fail to do, making their books drag on. One of the few books I'll remember for a long, long time.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 24, 2006

    Simply overrated, and - I hate to say it - 'phony'

    I will not lie, I am a literature geek/nerd/whatever. I love great writing. If that sounds like you, then do not pick up Catcher in the Rye. It does not come close to a masterpiece of literature. On the other hand, if angst, poor prose, and even poorer ideas/themes are your thing, pick up Catcher and you might even love it. Hell, you might start to live by it and think that everyone around is so fake that you want to shoot them up. Sorry, J.D., but if throwing in curse words into a novel and writing about a teenager are great literary innovations, then I am sorry to say, literature is going downhill (and it really just might be). If you have been told this is a classic and that is your reason for reading it, you probably shouldn't pick it up. Read some real classics.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2013

    Love this book! I'm so happy to finally have this on my nook! 5

    Love this book! I'm so happy to finally have this on my nook! 5 stars!!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 7, 2010

    The Catcher in the Rye is a Great book

    The Catcher in the Rye is not a waste of time, it will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time while reading it. I am one of those people who hate reading to and I could not put this book down. The author is grerat and his originality is amazing. just read the book it will not be a waste of time or a disapointment.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 15, 2008

    I'm not alone!

    I'm 38 years old and an avid reader, but believe it or not, I've never read Catcher in the Rye until now. I have to say, it's very difficult to keep reading, because, as other reviewers point out, there's NO PLOT! I'm eager to read some literary analysis of this book, because I want to know what I'm missing (if anything!). I can't imagine being assigned to read this book in high school....I don't know what would have kept me hooked enough to continue. I guess I'm just stubborn, because I intend to finish it, but can't see it getting any better!

    4 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2008

    No High School Relevancy

    In my reading of the book, I've realised that J.D. Salinger's book, The Catcher in the Rye, is nothing more than a moot account of three days from Holden Caulfield 'the main chactrer's' tales of drunken debauchery and excessive tobacco use. The book also contains very little symbolism which would prove useful from a teachers standpoint. Holden as a person, is also very negative, and due to the fact that the story is told in first peron, the views in the book are highly limited. Also, the examples of tone and diction throughout this book are very limited as well for the same reasons listed above. J.D. Salinger provides a fun read but not a literary example for the high school english class.

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 27, 2006

    Are You Kidding Me???

    Are you serious??? I swear, J.D. Salinger was in a mental institution when he wrote this. Was this man on crack? This book is pointless and disgusting. Save your money and don't buy it.

    4 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2012

    A Great Classic

    "The Catcher in the Rye" has rigid reaction; you either hate it or you love it. I personally enjoyed it to full extent. Holden Caulfield is a young boy who criticizes those around him and doesn't want to grow up, yet is contradicting himself loads throughout the book. The author writes with real emotion, and doesn't hold back on language. All in all, Holden is really just a kid not ready to take the responsibility of growing up. One of my favorite books.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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