Catcher In The Rye
Holden Caulfield is teen angst bull-crap with a pickax.
He's sarcastic, nasty, and completely unlikeable. He also
doesn't give a crap. He is every teenager caught between
the crapy little games of high school ("you're supposed to
kill yourself if the football team loses or something") and
the fear of adulthood ("going to get an office job and make
a lot of money like the rest of the phonies").
The greatness in Holden Caulfield is that what he has to
say is better than a million Celestine Prophecies or
anything said by Jonathan Livingston Seagull (save for the
squawks after you shoot him) or Jesus (save for the
apocryphal "hey Peter I can see your house from here").
Holden Caulfield says that life sucks, everyone is a phony,
and you'll be inevitably disappointed by everyone that you
hold in awe. If you think that this sounds awful, ask
yourself one question. When was the last time you found any
joy in watching Barney or the Care Bears?
It isn't just what he says but the way he says it. He goes
through life making dead-on observations that completely
shoot the kneecaps out from under the terminally
self-righteous. When a successful mortician tells the
school to follow his example and pray when things go bad,
it is Holden Caulfield who points out that the guy is
praying for more people to die. He's depressed by nuns and
annoyed by shallow girlfriends, while in love with his
Even more interesting is the fact that Caulfield's general
pissed off attitude and his hormones are inextricably
linked. He practically wants to kill his roommate,
Stradlatter, because Stradlatter might have screwed a girl
he desires. He guiltily admits to making out with phonies,
and in a major confession he confesses to being a virgin.
He gets the crap beat out of him by a disgruntled pimp
after deciding that he doesn't want a to have sex with a
prostitute for the silliest of reasons.(he just found it
disconcerting to see her take her clothes off without
fanfare.)The fact that his little brother has just died and
that he's being kicked out of yet another school takes
second place to the whole sex question. In other words,
Holden Caulfield is a guy; stereotype away.
What is also interesting is how closely Caulfield captures
the attitude and culture of adolescence. There is the caste
system in which Caulfield hates and wishes to be his
roommate Stradlatter. Meanwhile zit-encrusted Ackley, whom
he maybe should feel sympathy for, is an annoying guy that
Holden can't wait to get out of his room. He's sympathetic
to the principle's daughter, saying that it's not her fault
what kind of a bastard her old man is, and without missing
a beat remarks on the fact that she pads her bra. Cruelty
and frustration are mixed, but the comedy level allows you
to laugh at your own painful memories.
Granted, like many of his fans, Holden Caulfield turns out
to be nuts or at least residing in an insane asylum.
(Sorry, if you think that those stupid surprise endings are
the best reason to read Salinger.) Yet, in Caulfield's
insanity, there is a transcendent theme. By being the
pissed off, nasty, cynical insane bastard; Holden Caulfield
suggests that it is ok to be a crap. Your criticisms of the
world are not invalid and nothing you say or think is so
bad that you need to repress it. Ironically, this is not
only something that is essential to survival (especially if
you are a teenager and desperately trying to maintain your
lily-white self image) but is also the key to ultimately
becoming a decent caring human being. Keep your prophets,
preachers and shamans. I'll take Holden Caulfield over them
NOTE: We received the following information from someone
who visited our site and made the following comment about
this essay. Use your own judgement in researching this
information: name: Kelly body: your essay on Holden
caulfield is incorrect. I am not sure where you got that
his younger brother died. His older Brother Allie died.
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