The Dartmouth Observer

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Sunday, October 24, 2004
Catcher in the Rye - overrated

I read Catcher in the Rye quite some time ago, but I recall being distinctly unimpressed by it. Holden did not come across as a likeable or sympathetic character, and Salinger's prose struck me as prosaic at best. I'm glad that I've found a fellow traveler in Jonathan Yardley:
Viewed from the vantage point of half a century, the novel raises more questions than it answers. Why is a book about a spoiled rich kid kicked out of a fancy prep school so widely read by ordinary Americans, the overwhelming majority of whom have limited means and attend, or attended, public schools? Why is Holden Caulfield nearly universally seen as "a symbol of purity and sensitivity" (as "The Oxford Companion to American Literature" puts it) when he's merely self-regarding and callow? Why do English teachers, whose responsibility is to teach good writing, repeatedly and reflexively require students to read a book as badly written as this one?
Thank you, Mr. Yardley.