Every sophomore student at Burlingame High School in the Advanced Standing (AS) English classes reads “The Catcher in the Rye” as their first book of the year. Many people around the world also will or have read it. The book, although popular across the country, is still widely criticized.
The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger, is a book about a boy who has lost his way. Throughout the book, the main character, Holden Caulfield, struggles to deal with his problems, often showcasing his negative outlook on life. Although it is a complex book, it is adored by a large portion of its readers.
“The more I read it and teach it, the more I am impressed with how complex the layering of the narration is,” English teacher Tim Larkin said. “Salinger manages to create a narrator who can at the same time be totally unreliable, yet we as a reader are able to perceive what the objective reality of the situation is, even though we don’t hear anybody else’s voices.”
Larkin, a long time teacher of the book, conveyed the reason the book has fascinated him ever since he read it again as an adult.
However, Larkin has not always thought so highly of the book.
“When I was 15, I thought he needed a slap in the face,” Larkin said of Caulfield.
Larkin described his main reason for that as being that he couldn’t relate to Caulfield due to his happy childhood. Although Larkin formerly struggled to connect with Caulfield, others such as BHS sophomore Alec Abramson have less difficulty doing so.
“I could relate to Caulfield in that he was trying to find himself and rejecting authority and the status quo,” Abramson said.
Abramson’s concerns, along with with the concerns of others, show how Caulfield’s unique personality may not actually be that unique after all. Even though many students struggle to empathize with Caulfield, the character actually contains some similarities to readers. Another critic of the book is BHS sophomore, Brennan McDonald.
“In reading “The Catcher in the Rye”, I felt it had no purpose,” McDonald said. “What was the point of it?”
While this was McDonald’s reaction, everyone will have varying responses to why the book was written. He also does not disapprove of the messages of the book.
“The messages were relevant,” McDonald said. “It spoke of teenage maturity and dealing with the loss of one’s life, but I just felt the way those messages were conveyed wasn’t very interesting to read or particularly great to analyze.”
McDonald’s problems with the book were in the writing, not the actual content. This point only goes further to show why the book should be taught in high schools. The main themes are relatable to high schoolers reading the book. They then may feel that they are not alone in their problems and realize their peers experience similar issues in their lives.