New York Times Book Review Essay

958 Words Oct 21st, 2015 4 Pages
July 16, 1951
Books of The Times
By J. D. Salinger. | t is just before Christmas and 16-year-old Holden Caulfield has been kicked out of exclusive Pencey Prep, a boys' school in Pennsylvania. Considering everything, this reflects more credit on Holden than on Pencey. Life at Pencey is dreary, regimented, artificial and, of course, expensive. This happens, however, to be only the latest of a series of schools from which Holden has been expelled. Understandably he is in no hurry to encounter his parents, but he is also reluctant to linger a moment longer than necessary at Pencey. He therefore takes what money he has and departs for New York, where he passes several days in a weird
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Mr. Salinger's rendering of teen-age speech is wonderful: the unconscious humor, the repetitions, the slang and profanity, the emphasis, all are just right. Holden's mercurial changes of mood, his stubborn refusal to admit his own sensitiveness and emotions, his cheerful disregard of what is sometimes known as reality are typically and heart breakingly adolescent.
The author evidently takes a dim view of prep-school life, and few writers have presented it with more effortless devastation. Holden's reminiscences and observations are short and to the point. "Pencey," he tells us, "was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these very wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has. I'm not kidding." Holden is sometimes, but not for long, a little bitter, and it may be he has a tendency to generalize from too little evidence (in this case his camel's-hair coat had been stolen out of his room), but he has seen and done a lot for a 16-year-old, and a lot has been done to him. Mr. Salinger gives us a peek at Pencey's headmaster, who knows just which parents to talk with, which to ignore, gives a glimpse, too, of alumni and assorted students. Then there is a fine chapter in which Holden calls to say good-by to an ancient teacher, an unlovable Mr. Chips without wisdom or imagination.
Poignant Reflections of Youth
In New York Holden's nightmarish

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