YMMV / The Catcher in the Rye

  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Holden is either a shining beacon of morality amongst all that was wrong with the 1950s, or a whiny prototype Emo Kid (and a rather hypocritical one at that) who refuses to let himself see anything good in the world, or someone who has good insights and potential but is weighed down by cynicism and bitterness, OR just one of the first examples of teenage disillusionment in a post-World War II world. Or you think he's telling you to kill pop-culture icons (see Loony Fan in the Trivia sec). It really depends on the reader.
    • Holden is either a spoiled brat, or a young person realistically acting out because of the grief of his younger brother dying.
    • Holden's line about how he has suffered like twenty times in his life the situation that makes him run away from Antolini's house (namely, that Antolini strokes creepily his head while he's sleeping). In a bit of Fridge Horror, this comment and his subsequent reaction might mean Holden has suffered sexual abuse even if he does not acknowledge it explicitly as such. His recollection about how his schoolmate James Castle comitted suicide after being attacked in a room in a way that Holden uncharacteristically refuses to disclose (he only describes it as "repulsive") only adds to the interpretation.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Why is this book so frequently banned? Because it uses the word "Fuck"- during a scene in which Holden, discovering it scribbled where grade-schoolers can see it, tries to scrub it out so it can never offend anyone again. Considering how much Holden swears BEYOND "fuck," this is somewhat justified. However, this does miss the point, considering how iconic the book is. The underage protagonist spending the entire novel smoking, drinking (when he can get served), hiring a prostitute (though he doesn't actually sleep with her), having a generally negative attitude AFTER being kicked out of school might also have something to do with why people ban it...
  • Ho Yay:
    • The infamous passage in which Mr. Antolini strokes the forehead of a sleeping Holden. Even Holden himself is rather disturbed, fleeing Mr. Antolini's house right afterwards. Antolini's inquiries about Holden's girlfriends and the fact that he calls Holden "handsome" as he wishes him goodnight could be read as flirtatious advances as well.
    • Carl Luce, who was said to be always grabbing guys' butts, and somehow seemed to know if anyone was gay. Note that, for a long time in America, spotting a gay man based on behavorial patterns (that is, by any way other than catching him having sex with a man) was seen as a surefire sign that you were gay. Gaydar was one of the main reasons so many people were expelled from Harvard in the 1920's, even if they were actually heterosexual or bisexual.
    • Interestingly, Holden himself fits the popular perception explained in Luce's case, as he similarly identifies several gay people in the bars he visits. Moreover, he refers to how attractive Stradlater is all the damn time, including calling him a "sexy bastard" at least twice (though, as noted on the main page, this is most likely the result of Have a Gay Old Time and/or Holden trying deliberately to annoy him). Although he would be rather bi given that he is unambiguously attracted to girls too, something that in Luce is an Informed Attribute.
  • Hype Backlash: Considering its reputation as both one of the most controversial and most loved books in history, it has lead to quite a few people being a little underwhelmed when they read it the first time.
  • Jerkass Woobie: Holden is a pretty bitter character who goes on about the "phoniness" of society but it's clear that his past has left some lasting trauma on him. Even worse, depending on how you interpret some of his lines, he might be even a sexual abuse victim.
  • Memetic Mutation: Holden Caulfield thinks you're a phony. It's on t-shirts. Just Holden's usage of "phony" all the time is memetic.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
    • The Catcher in the Rye is uncontroversial by today's standards. See the Loony Fan entry in the Trivia section for what helped fuel an undeserved reputation as a dark and controversial book.
    • Its current 'tame' status was referenced in an episode of South Park, where the boys, disappointed by the book's content, try to write the most disgusting story imaginable.
    • In the '50s, Holden Caulfield probably was a great character, just for being so different from other literary protagonists of the time. Today... not so much. Considering that so many characters are like him nowadays, he can sometimes come off as the Ur-Example of a Jerkass Stu.
  • Signature Line: The very last lines of the book: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."
  • Signature Scene: Phoebe riding on the carousel in the last chapter of the book. The scene has the most fan art out of every other scene in the book and nearly every Catcher in the Rye book has the scene as its cover picture (like the one on the Main page).
  • Tear Jerker:
    • Virtually every interaction Holden has with Phoebe. She's concerned about her brother because he keeps hurting himself and she's genuinely concerned for his well-being. When she receives his note, she drops everything because she's so scared of losing her brother and it's ultimately what drives Holden to get his shit together. Mind you, she's only ten and Holden leaving wouldn't be the first time she's lost a brother.
    • Holden talking about his younger brother, then abruptly stating that he died of leukemia. He then says, "You would have liked him."
    • Holden's recollection about James Castle, a boy in his school who committed suicide by jumping out of a window because of bullying (or possibly something even worse) - while wearing a sweater he borrowed from Holden.
    I heard everybody running through the corridor and down the stairs, so I put on my bathrobe and I ran downstairs too, and there was old James Castle laying right on the stone steps and all. He was dead, and his teeth, and blood, were all over the place and nobody would even go near him. He had on this turtleneck sweater I'd lent him.
  • Wangst: The nonstop swearing and pessimistic, holier-than-thou type of attitude that the narrator had (due to everyone being a "phony") made the book completely unbearable for some.