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 everyteenager caught between the crapy little games of high school (“you’resupposed to kill yourself if the football team loses or something”) andthe fear of adulthood (“going to get an office job and make a lot of moneylike the rest of the phonies”). The greatness in Holden Caulfield is that what he has to say is betterthan a million Celestine Prophecies or anything said by JonathanLivingston 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 beinevitably disappointed by everyone that you hold in awe. If you thinkthat this sounds awful, ask yourself one question. When was the last timeyou found any joy in watching Barney or the Care Bears? It isn’t just what he says but the way he says it.Order now
He goes through lifemaking dead-on observations that completely shoot the kneecaps out fromunder the terminally self-righteous. When a successful mortician tells theschool to follow his example and pray when things go bad, it is HoldenCaulfield 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 lovewith his platonic friend. Even more interesting is the fact that Caulfield’s general pissed offattitude and his hormones are inextricably linked. He practically wants tokill his roommate, Stradlatter, because Stradlatter might have screwed agirl he desires. He guiltily admits to making out with phonies, and in amajor confession he confesses to being a virgin.
He gets the crap beat outof him by a disgruntled pimp after deciding that he doesn’t want a to havesex with a prostitute for the silliest of reasons. (he just found itdisconcerting to see her take her clothes off without fanfare. )The factthat his little brother has just died and that he’s being kicked out ofyet another school takes second place to the whole sex question. In otherwords, Holden Caulfield is a guy; stereotype away. What is also interesting is how closely Caulfield captures the attitudeand culture of adolescence.
There is the caste system in which Caulfieldhates and wishes to be his roommate Stradlatter. Meanwhile zit-encrustedAckley, whom he maybe should feel sympathy for, is an annoying guy thatHolden can’t wait to get out of his room. He’s sympathetic to theprinciple’s daughter, saying that it’s not her fault what kind of abastard her old man is, and without missing a beat remarks on the factthat she pads her bra. Cruelty and frustration are mixed, but the comedylevel allows you to laugh at your own painful memories. Granted, like many of his fans, Holden Caulfield turns out to be nuts orat least residing in an insane asylum.
(Sorry, if you think that thosestupid surprise endings are the best reason to read Salinger. ) Yet, inCaulfield’s insanity, there is a transcendent theme. By being the pissedoff, nasty, cynical insane bastard; Holden Caulfield suggests that it isok to be a crap. Your criticisms of the world are not invalid and nothingyou say or think is so bad that you need to repress it. Ironically, thisis not only something that is essential to survival (especially if you area 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 overthem any day. Words/ Pages : 589 / 24