Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Catcher in the Rye : A Bildungsroman

By: Leila Moslemi (  

One of the books which I highly recommend the students of English language to follow reading is "The Catcher in the Rye" (1951) , a novel by an American writer known as J. D. Salinger. This is actually a story of a teenager, Holden Caulfield, who is abandoning a childhood life and moving towards adulthood. These kind of stories which mainly focuses on the character's coming-of-age are called Bildungsroman.  Holden Caulfield narrates in the first person, describing what he himself sees and experiences, providing his own commentary on the events and the people he describes. Holden’s tone varies between disgust, cynicism, bitterness, and nostalgic longing, all expressed in a colloquial style. The major conflict in this novel is within Holden’s psyche. Part of him wants to connect with other people on an adult level (and, more specifically, to have a sexual encounter), while part of him wants to reject the adult world as “phony,” and to retreat into his own memories of childhood. During this movement towards adulthood he faces with painfulness and phoniness of adult world. He understands alienation as a true fact for his self- protection. He finds the hypocrisy and ugliness of the world around him almost unbearable. He is uncomfortable with his own weaknesses, and at times displays as much phoniness, meanness, and superficiality as anyone else in the book. The title of the book is a strange one for many readers but as the novel opens, Holden stands poised on the cliff separating childhood from adulthood and this is the exact duty of a catcher in the rye. It is such a kind of story that all the readers can identify himself with Holden. Reading the novel would help the teenagers to make an adaptation between the childhood life and adulthood one so that the teenagers would be able to find their own identity during the teen years.


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