the CATCHER in the RYE

24 05 2008

“You know that song. ‘If a body catch a body coming’ through the rye? I’d like —“

“It’s ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye!” old Phoebe said. “It’s a poem. By Robert Burns.”

“I know it is a poem by Robert Burns.”

“She was right though. It is “If a body meet a body coming through the rye.” I didn’t know it then, though.

“I thought it was ‘If a body catch a body,'” I said. “Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody around — nobody big, I mean — except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff — I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”

I was in half love with this ‘Holden Caulfield’ by the time I am through. I really am. For his age of Sixteen, I didn’t know anyone who is more clear thinking and muddle headed than he was. A bundle of teenage rebellion, that he indeed was, with little regard to play by the rules. He has these itsy bitsy darn complaints about the phoniness in the world that makes you dig into the childhood memories and offer a sigh at those days of carefree innocence. The disconnect that he feels from the world, the perils of growing up, the burden of responsibilities, the alienation from the society, the loss of his brother Allie, his pursuit for independent identity, and his naive frustrations – didn’t we all go through some of them in our adolescence?

Just like the Lagoon in Central Park which is “partly frozen and partly not frozen”, Holden comes across as an embodiment of teenager who is caught between the dilemma of growing up to a responsible adulthood from carefree mirth of childhood innocence. Holden narrates his two days of his life after getting an ax from Pencey Prep School for his poor academic performance. We share the deeply private fantasy world of Holden, through his candid confessions which fill the book and occupy your mindspace. Often endearing and often shallow, refreshingly, Holden remains the same simple ‘heart on my sleeve’ kid even as he ends his narration by celebrating Phoebe’s cheerful mood on a park ride. What is unique about this novel apart from Holden’s red hunting hat, is the flow of Holden’s experiences in first person which run as a simple commentary on life. Cynical, bitter, nostalgic and intimately introspective, one can’t help but appreciate the colorful innocent world that Holden inhabits.

Some Voice of Reason that Holden encounters in the novel:

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”