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J.D. Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye, follows Holden Caulfield’s journey from an expelled prep school student to mental patient. Throughout the story Holden battles with himself and the world to protect the innocent. His dream is to become a “catcher in the rye,” watching over kids playing on cliff and sweeping them away from the edge whenever they get too close, to keep them from reaching adulthood.
The effectiveness of the book comes from Salinger’s strong character development, Holden’s experiences in New York and all the people he meets create a clearer image in the reader’s mind of his mental state and how each person impacts it. The beginning of the story is quite confusing starting at the end of his mental breakdown with the rest of the story as a flashback. Holden faces his biggest fear after being expelled from Pencey Prep: growing up. While he does smoke and drink throughout the book, more adult adventures, he can’t help but notice that the world is full of fake people, phonies. Along with strong character development themes are also very effective in achieving the book’s purpose.


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The ineffectiveness of the book revolves around its unnecessary scenes that are completely irrelevant to the main storyline. For example, while in New York Holden visits a bar to listen to a “famous” pianist and runs into his older brothers ex-girlfriend. This scene has no impact on the book as a whole compared to Holden’s experience at the school with the profanity written on the walls. Other than this scene the others help chronicle Holden’s mental deterioration and inability to cope with growing up.
Salinger’s use of strong characters and themes helps reinforce the effectiveness of achieving the book’s purpose. Though some of the most impactful characters only live in Holden’s memory such as Jane and Allie, they add to his need to protect innocence. Holden wasn’t able to save his brother and he remembers Jane as the girl he played checkers. He does reach an epiphany by the end of the novel as his sister Phoebe rides the carousel, all Holden wants to do is sweep her off the ride as it begins to rain but he sees her reaching for the gold ring without fear. Holden realizes that he must let go of the past because growing up is inevitable.