By Kaleb Schuppner, Editor
Looking for the perfect spring break read? Sit back with one of these three classics.
“The Catcher in the Rye”
“The Catcher in the Rye” can be analyzed in two different ways: it can simply be about a young student who is kicked out of a prep school, or it can be a tale of teenage angst and one young adult’s struggle to understand the world around him and, most importantly, himself.
Every adolescent going through this uncomfortable, confusing high school experience should read this book by J.D. Salinger, which is on the College Board’s list of Top 100 books recommended for college-bound students. The main character, Holden Caulfield, encounters many internal struggles common amongst teens, such as impulsiveness and depression. Holden has a pessimistic outlook on life, as he sees most of the people he comes across as “phonies.”
What makes this book so up for interpretation is the fact that Caulfield is merely telling the reader about a span of a few days of his life. It is thought that he is telling someone about his life from somewhere; however, there is no evidence to back up any speculation. The most popular guess is that he is in a mental hospital.
Critics have described this novel as a perfectly articulated cry of mixed pain and pleasure. However, instead of being a glorified poet or artist, Holden goes down the path of most teenagers: keeping his feelings and pain to himself. Although Caulfield can be labeled as unstable and therefore, an unreliable narrator, it is eerily easy to relate and think the way he does. This makes him resonate well with readers, especially young, discontent adolescents.
Towards the end of the novel, Holden’s view of the world starts to become more hopeful. Rather than defining people as “phonies” or innocent, his perception of people is widened. Holden Caulfield can be seen as a hero because he grows as a person and opens up his mind.
This list wouldn’t seem right without mentioning science fiction specialist Kurt Vonnegut, perhaps one of the best writers of the 20th century. What makes “Slaughterhouse-Five” so timeless is its focus on subjects that are always relevant: war, ecology, overpopulation and consumerism. Vonnegut’s tale is set amid the fire bombings in Dresden during Feb. 1945, something he experienced as a soldier in World War II. Here’s the twist: Billy Pilgrim, the main character of the book, has become unstuck in time.
The prisoner of war, optometrist, plane crash survivor and captive of the fictional planet Tralfamadore gets flung around in time without notice, which makes time and death a vital part of this novel. Whenever death is mentioned, Vonnegut uses the phrase “so it goes,” because Tralfamadorians believe that time exists all at once. This leads to the enthralling idea that a person never dies, because they are alive in another window of time.
The anti-war sentiments of this book are undeniable and unsurprising, coming from a WWII vet. At the beginning of “Slaughterhouse-Five,” Vonnegut explains that writing an anti-war book is similar to writing an anti-glacier book because war is about as hard to prevent as glaciers. However, the author shows how war negatively affects soldiers for the rest of their lives and how the ones who hate war the most are those who experienced it firsthand.
The satirical writing of Vonnegut is something that everyone should be able to experience and “Slaughterhouse-Five” is considered by many to be an essential American classic. The College Board strongly recoments that all high school students read it, and the concepts of time and death in this novel are fascinating.
In Ray Bradbury’s futuristic city, firemen start fires, they don’t put them out. Not only do they start the fires, but they burn very specific items: books.
Enter the eerie world of “Fahrenheit 451,” where libraries are stripped of their books and sent into flames. Bradbury creates a vivid society that will spark interest and leave readers on their toes.
Guy Montag, the main character, is one of the book-burning firemen, and the society he lives in is very peculiar. Citizens spend time driving fast, watching TV and constantly listening to the radio attached to their ears—in other words, being as anti-social as possible. This dependency of technology found in the book can relate to any teen today.
When a 17-year-old girl steps into Montag’s life, his world is turned upside down by her curiosity about life, people and nature. Grotesque events such as his wife’s attempted suicide, a woman choosing to be burned alive with her books and a devastating car accident will keep the pages turning.
Although one of Montag’s partners accepts his newfound interest in books, he advises Montag to do a night of reading and then abandon it forever. Montag discovers the reality of why books are being turned into ash, and he is determined to put a stop to it.
Books are often tossed to the wayside when teens can choose other entertainment, whether it’s a new TV show or an incoming text message. “Fahrenheit 451” gives high school students a new perspective on what society could really turn into if technology stays on the rise.
The mind-altering plot will make readers take a step back and wonder what the world can turn into. With this generation obsessed with technology, what does the future look like?
“Fahrenheit 451” will not fail to keep readers wondering what could possibly happen next. Betrayal and sinister situations will tell whether the world will come to an end or Montag can recreate civilization.