Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Revisiting The Catcher In The Rye.

I re-read The Catcher In The Rye recently. The last time I read it was years back - maybe when I was 13. And I was struck by how my perspective and opinion on the book has changed since then. When I read it then, Holden Caulfield was me - so what if he was an 18-year old fictional American character, and I was a 13-year old real Indian girl? His angst was my angst, his dilemmas were my dilemmas, and his adolescent turmoil was exactly what I identified with.
But when I read it now, I have trouble identifying with Holden. I guess I've changed - yes, we all do, and our outlooks alter over time, with experience and the gradual loss of adolescent anger.
Don't get me wrong, J D Salinger's book is still a great one, the writing is brilliant - and it captures teenage angst and depression extremely well, but it's just that I feel differently about it now. (Shreya's going to kill me for this.)
I've grown up, apparently. Yes, I'm sure in some ways I still identify with Holden's character, but on the whole, I was actually left thinking, "What a wimp, he needs some maturity." But perhaps that's just my maturity speaking, at the risk of sounding presumptous. I suppose it happens to all of us - maybe this is a defining moment for me. I've realised I'm certainly past the "Holden Caulfield Point", and while a little part of me is slightly disconcerted to realise I don't identify with Holden anymore, on the whole- I feel glad that I've grown up. My perspectives may have changed, but I feel I'm more at ease with my adult self.
In a way, I'm glad I re-read the book. It's made me come to terms with the fact that I've moved on. And that my life, too, has moved on.


storyteller said...

Actually the first thing that we bonded over almost two years back was this book,when we first met in college. And although you were not nearly as obsessed as me about Holden, I certainly did figure you appreciated the book. Re-reading the book probably was a good idea, because perspectives change with time and what we feel at thirteen doesn't last too long, that is true. I'm a little surprised that you called him a wimp though :P
Of course Holden Caulfield is just a character in a book and has been represented wrongly or perhaps been misunderstood.A killer identified with him strongly so its good you don't anymore :P As it turns out I've matured too, I no longer want to kill people who don't find the charm in "The Catcher in the Rye" :D Each to his own, I do like the post for its honesty.

Mer-curial-maiden said...

This is the same reason I didn't like the book all that much :(
I really wanted to, though.

Indranil said...

I remember the first time I read the book was on a whim to impress a girl.. :P

While I unfortunately never "identified" with Holden, I think J.D. Salinger perfectly captures teenage desperation and angst through Caulfield. The ideals, the helplessness.

And while you say he's a wimp, remember he's only 18. :) He knows how things should be, but doesn't know how it should get there.

In that regard, most people under 18 will love Caulfield immediately and identify with him, but adults mostly tend not to.

Indranil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
little boxes said...

i completely relate to this post.that is the beauty of a book i think-by remaining the same,it reminds you how much you have changed.re-reading an old favourite is like going through old photo albums and going,"oh my god,i looked like that!"
i thought myself to be Holden too and so did a lot of people around me,when we read the book as 15-16 year olds.but then i guess,we realised that there is a lot more flesh and blood to us than pen-portraits like Holden.
but i dont think i'd want to re-read the book.i somehow am very possessive about my first reactions to it and the memories attached to it, and i want them to remain that way.
nice post :)

Magically Bored said...

@ Storyteller: Yes, I remember discussing the book with you, in our first month at Jude. Perspectives and opinions do change, yes, and it's not so much I thought him a wimp, but rather whiny, on the whole. But then again, that's just part of teenage angst.

@ Mer-curial-maiden: Didn't you read it around the age of 13-14? Chances are you would have liked it then.

@ Indranil: Which girl? ;) Like I said, I actually think he's more whiny, than a wimp. Then again, that's part of the whole outline of the teen years.

@ Little Boxes: Yup, you've put it very well - books do remain constant, and in doing so, they remind us how much we've changed. I think I needed this re-visiting of the book, in a way, it was a big moment for me.

Mer-curial-maiden said...

I read it when I was 16, and behaved like I was 56. :D

Mer-curial-maiden said...

And I actually enjoyed it very much. Just didn't think of it as highly as most of my friends did (do).

Arnab said...

I love Salinger. Read Franny and Zooey, Raise High the roofbeam carpenters and other stories. You're sure to like them. As for Catcher in the Rye, I loved it on my first read, and I'm sure I'll love it when I read it again. The teenage angst and depression theme aside, I loved the story. And Caulfield too. Can't say I related to him really as a teenager, but loved his thought process and the character as a whole.
Great blog.
Love Pickles. :D

Death On Two Legs said...

It's what I felt on going back to Fountainhead. The plot and writing style were still brilliant, but the selfishness theme seemed impractical and idealistic, instead of dazzling and inspiring.