January 20, 2022

#08-180: The Catcher in the Rye

Cover of a book about Catcher

Note: Many American high school students are required to read J.D. Salinger's 1951 novel The Catcher in the Rye. Though dealing with complex issues of adolescence, it has found a spot on many recent surveys of adult readers favorites.

Get Ready: If you are an adult: Did you find adolescence to be easy, or traumatic? If you are a teen: Do you feel comfortable with your life, the physical and social changes you are experiencing, etc.?

Holden Caulfield is the prototypical "troubled teen." Recently expelled mid-year from a private school for failing all of his classes except English, he catches a train to New York. He plans to avoid going home until he had to, a few days later, when his parents would receive notification of his expulsion. The rest of the book is about his adventures in the city on his own during those few days.

Just looking for a decent conversation, he's disappointed by a taxi driver, some tourists, and a prostitute named Sunny who visited his room (which leads to his being beat up by her pimp).

Still looking for someone to talk to, he annoys a few of his old friends before going to visit his 10-year-old sister Phoebe while his parents are out. She figures out that he has been expelled and scolds him for not caring about anything important. He counters by saying he has a fantasy of saving children from falling off a cliff in a field of rye: he has misremembered an old song called "Comin' Thro' the Rye."  The song says in part, "if a body meet a body, Comin' thro' the rye," but Holden remembers it as "if a body catch a body."

He leaves before his parents come home and visits an old English teacher, Mr. Antolini, who worries about his future. When the teacher allows him to stay the night, Holden wakes with the teacher patting him on the head and, feeling uncomfortable, leaves. He spends the night in the waiting room of a huge train station. After wandering the city streets throughout the morning, he decides the best thing to do is to run away and go "out west."

He meets Phoebe to say goodbye, and she says she wants to go with him. He says no, which upsets her, but then he takes her to the zoo, where he becomes happy watching her try to grab the brass ring while riding the carousel.

The story ends with Holden alluding to an encounter with his parents, and the news that he will attend another school in September--but other than his optimism about Phoebe, nothing has really changed, unlike most stories recommended to young adults.


Read more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Catcher_in_the_Rye

Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. alluding
  2. carousel
  3. counters
  4. expelled
  5. fantasy
  6. optimism
  7. pimp
  8. prostitute
  9. prototypical
  10. rye

  1. a kind of grain, like wheat or barley
  2. a criminal who manages a prostitute
  3. a merry-go-round, a kind of ride with wooden horses and other animals
  4. a positive outlook
  5. a classic example of something
  6. an imaginary story
  7. argues against something
  8. kicked out
  9. referring without saying directly
  10. a person who has sex for money

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for January 20, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. i; 2. c; 3. g; 4. h; 5. f; 6. d; 7. b; 8. j; 9. e; 10. a