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Catcher in the Rye is a bad book

In 1951 J.D. Salinger wrote his famous novel The Catcher in the Rye. It was proclaimed by hundreds of thousands as an amazing book a classic. But is it really a classic or maybe the worst book ever written?

All the Yes points:

  1. The book has no plot
  2. The book is depressing
  3. The book is too long

All the No points:

  1. Universality of theme

The book has no plot

Yes because…

The basic plot of ‘Catcher’ can be summarized in two sentences; Holden Caulfield is a teenager who hates life, runs away from school, and hangs out in New York City. There he has a terrible time, goes home, tries to run away, and doesn’t. The end. No drama. No suspense. It’s true, not every book has to have a successful plot to be good, however a plot would have definitely helped make the book interesting- the book in its present state basically repeats itself over and over as the hero does the same things in different variations, all the while griping and complaining at how terrible everything is. Why should the reader have to suffer through two hundred and seventy six pages of repetition and bore?

No because…

Almost any book can be summarised very briefly in a way that makes it sound uninteresting. It is whether you enjoy the small details of the book and that author’s writing style.

The book is depressing

Yes because…

Holden Caulfield is a depressed, ranting teenager. He does his best to make us be in the same mood. Holden sees almost nothing in a positive light, and as such is not a pleasant read. Yes, it’s true, there are many teenagers and grownups in the world who go about with a negative attitude, but we don’t need to HEAR ABOUT IT for 276 pages. This only depresses the readers making them detest Salinger for writing such a book.

No because…

Readers do not always want to be cheered up. There is a market for depressing books. Memoirs of people who had awful childhoods is a popular genre. Either people feel depressed themselves but want somebody to empathise with them, rather than forcing them to cheer up, they see depressing stories as more deep and meaningful or they want to know the facts of what it a depressing scenario is like.

he’s not depressed; it was a very witty/funny read. Not once does the reader I feel like saying “stop whining” unlike when one reads ‘Jude the Obscure’ by Thomas Hardy; where Jude is pathetic.
Holden is never ‘depressed’, (saying this and that depresses me is not the same as being depressed), angry, yes, but not sad. And he reconciles his anger in the end with the ride of the carousel/merry-go-round with his sister.

The book is too long

Yes because…

Granted, Salinger is not trying to write a novel. He’s trying to make a point. I, however, think that this point, whatever it may be, was made after ten or twenty pages. As noted above, the book has no plot, as well as no character development. This would be ample reason to make ‘Catcher’ a short story, fifteen or sixteen pages long. Holden repeats the same complaints, talks about the same things, and maintains the same attitude throughout the book. With global warming threatening the planet, why waste paper?

No because…

276 pages isn’t really that long for a reasonably fast reader who is concentrating on reading it, it can easily be read in a week.

A story where the plot is briefly summarised so as to fit into 15 or 16 pages wouldn’t be very well written. A short story has to be written as a short story from the start.

I thought it was much shorter than most coming-of-age books(case in point the Harry Potter series).

I read it in e-form so no paper wasted :P.

At least his book shaped an entire epoch of moody teenagers.

Think about all the paper people who never amount to writers/poets/artists waste in Art and English class.

I don’t think there was much repetition: it starts with his brother writing scripts for Hollywood,then his pompous school and the hilarious fart that erupted during doctor death’s speech. He complains about teachers who make fun of parents; then his roommate who insists on clipping his nails on the floor goes on about secret slobs …point being the story has a beginning middle and end. Salinger never plays it like a broken record.

Universality of theme

No because…

The troubles and mentality unique to the young are a theme that transcends the boundaries of culture and era. Proposition argues that it lacks theme, but that vagueness is a crucial element that allows readers of all background to relate to the book.

The volatility of the protagonist, Holden Caulfield, captures the essence of young people’s predicament: restless curiosity, unsettled focus and fear of what to come in the future. It makes the piece somewhat ambulatory, but the close and intimate description of Holden’s actions and emotions enriches what could be a mundane account of the life of a reckless teenager.

Yes because…

Different young people have different personalities (this is reflected upon in the book), maybe secret slobs wouldn’t be happy about that part. There are people who don’t tap dance in the loo nor are crazy about half-nelsons in wrestling matches nor are remotely as sad about the F-word spangled everywhere.

The structure of the book is built upon endless repetition. It seems as if Salinger had initially written this book with purpose, but quickly lost interest and relied on attempting to make Holden’s daily life seem enthralling. The novel is nothing more than a documentary of the mundane activities of a stereotypical teenager who has the money to pay for endless taxi rides in New York. Readers of Catcher in the Rye are simply delving into these activities and erroneously depicting them as deeper than they actually are.

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Fair Winds
4 years ago

Agree with above “Yes” points and in addition
– Devoid of any entertainment value
– Devoid of any useful life enhancement value
– Only useful for historians and psychologists

KC Nebeker
7 years ago

Its long winding complainging dose set the mood, and should. Thats what the author is dowing, ingraining in youa whiney sadness like Holden, only to peak, with the untmost sentimental part. That he does care. That everything else in life is shitty, hes bitter, but when it comes down to it. He cares, probably more deeply than adults do about kids, he wants to be of value. Thats what this all vomes to at the end, he expresses himself in a raw platform as best as he could in the manner that anyone could. As best as he can and he dose it well. Its ling to that peaking, universl testiment of love and caring. Then a all withdral and fall. We rearely peak and show such sides of ourselfs. Especially when tumbling with turmoil do we ever get to the top and peak with a breath of fresh air, and Holden gets to ot. He says what he must utter, whats on his heart the most. Not many do that, no matter how sound of mind, this seeminly disturbed boy gets there and ids say many are jealoys cause they cant speak as truthfully as he dose in a few lines of the story. As compaired to the whole book. Its perfect. Everyone wamts such truths in their lives. Thats why its so impressive to some. They relate that they dont want to deal with bullshit but want to get to the core of what they want most like that little boy did. It was altruistic. And I believe that is what truely defends the book in the end, that very little many book do.

7 years ago
Reply to  Dave

I feel as though i can see either side of the argument but i personally dislike the book for its slow pace and unrelateable main character.

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