On Monday in class we reviewed The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I read this book in Freshman year of High School and I wasn’t impressed. At that time in my life I don’t feel that I was emotionally mature enough to fully understand the message of the novel. Four years later I was excited to revisit this novel and examine it through my eighteen year old perspective. After rereading this book, I can officially say that The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite novels. Even though my life isn’t remotely close to Holden’s, with the exception of us both living in New York, I can relate to his questions and fears about life. When I first read The Catcher in the Rye I was fourteen years old, and in many ways I was still a child, oblivious to the suffering around me. Now I am eighteen years old and recently I’ve been yearning for my childhood blissful ignorance. All of a sudden I find myself in Holden’s shoes, feeling like, I’m “…disappearing every time [I cross] a road.” (Chapter 1 page 5).
It may be because I’ve been conditioned to analyze everything, particularly pieces of literature, but I had a really fun time finding all of the extended metaphors, and symbolic messages hidden throughout the novel, which I had missed when I first read it. My favorite metaphor that I found was about the streets. Throughout the entire book Holden keeps talking about streets and milestones and growing up. The street, is symbolic of his entrance to adulthood. Every time he crosses a “road” he loses some of his childhood innocence, and that scares him more than anything. When he talks about the Museum of Natural History he says that, “The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right were it was. Nobody’d move….Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.” (Chapter 16 Page 121). The road image returns sporadically throughout the novel, but become very prominent in the final chapters of the novel. This is evident when Holden says, “Then I started doing something else. Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear…Please, Allie.” And then when I ‘d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner.” (Chapter 25 Page 198). Holden is afraid to grow up, he’s afraid to become an adult, to know too much, to lose all of his innocence. Beyond all of these fears, Holden is most afraid that he has already passed the point of no return, and that he has lost all of his innocence.
Another part of this book which really resonated with me this time was Holden’s relationship with Phoebe. The name Phoebe, comes from the Greek name Phoibe which means “bright and pure”, and that is exactly what she represents for Holden. Everything in his life is dark and ominous, his outlook on life has become very jaded and depressing, but Phoebe looks at life in a pure way. I think that it is beautiful that, it is the innocent character, the pure one, who helps Holden finally cross the street at the end of the novel. Phoebe is fearless, “…she ran right the hell across the street, without even looking to see if there were any cars coming.” (Chapter 25 Page 208), and the interesting thing about this, is that even after Phoebe fearlessly runs across the street, Holden still holds back. He stays on his side of the street and the two of them walk in parallel paths on opposite sides of the street. Finally though he crosses the street with her when they are leaving the zoo, and he accepts the reality of life and time and growing up while watching Phoebe ride the carousel. The most heart wrenching line of book for me was when Phoebe gets off of the carousel, kisses Holden and then says, “It’s raining. It’s starting to rain.” and Holden responds, “I know.” He accepts it, and for the first time in the novel, he’s truly happy.
So even though I’m no Holden Caulfield, I can relate to his journey…but I may still need some help welcoming the rain.