Let’s face it: The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, is bleak. It’s about a 16-year-old guy named Holden Caulfield who is undergoing treatment in a mental hospital. Holden’s encounters with society tell the story of a teenager who can’t find his place in a pretty ugly world.
But there’s more to The Catcher in the Rye than teen angst and urban sleaze. Salinger presents Holden as a study in the self-contradictions of adolescence. By the end of The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger gives Holden some reason for hope—and some hope for growing up. The world, Holden Caulfield comes to see, might not be quite so bad as he thought.