In my sophomore year of high school, I was required to read The Catcher in the Rye,
by J.D Salinger for my English class. By the time we finished the novel, many of my
peers wondered why we had read it in the first place, or why it was considered a
classic. It is undeniable among scholars that Salinger's work is an American
classic, making it a common read in high school English classes. Despite this, the
majority of high schoolers tend to have no attraction to Holden Caulfield's tragedy,
and more often than not are averse to his story.
However when I read it, I never saw that. I loved it, but had no clue why. I just
did. There was something about Holden's predicament that spoke to me, despite how
infuriating his outlook on life was. While all the other sixteen-year-olds in my
class criticized Holden, who was the same age as us, I couldn't help but love him.
Soon after we finished our unit on Catcher, the class moved onto other subjects, and
while I retained my love for Cathcer, I mostly forgot about it.
In my senior year of high school, I began to have more severe issues with my
pre-existing anxiety and depression. I started seeing several therapists, and I felt
as if my entire life was being ruled by the fears I had. On one particularly cold,
unattractive day, the National Honors Society branch that I was a part of took a
group trip, but I could only feel sadness over a simple missed opportunity. While I
don't remember exactly how I felt that day, I do distinctly remember something that
a classmate told me, as we got ready to take a group picture: "Tom, you look like
Holden Caulfield." She was in my English class two years ago, and I vaguely remember
her vehemently disliking the novel at first.
And I suppose I did look like him a little, with my peacoat and melancholy stare. I
don't think she meant it as an insult, though. We had always been friendly, and I
think she said something to me once upon a time about rereading the book, and
enjoying it thoroughly. But needless to say, if I hadn't identified with Holden
before, I certainly did that day. It was a gray, largely uneventful in retrospect,
and utterly depressing day.
All this to say, The Catcher in the Rye, and this project, are deeply personal to me.
I remember hating everyone who hated this book. I didn't understand how you could
read this and not feel bad for Holden. I saw myself under that red hunting cap, and
couldn't bare the fact that people might see Holden as a whiny brat who needed to
grow up. Because ultimately, that would mean that's how they saw me.
This project is devoted to Holden Caulfield, and unwrapping the mystery of why his
story matters, in a way which will hopefully convince all of you who may hate the
guy. I have chosen to analyze the short story which Catcher was based on, A Slight
Rebellion Off Madison, instead of the full novel. Largely, I feel as if Holden's
essential problems, flaws, and condition are summed up beautifully in the story.
Many of the comments I make rely on you knowing key things about the novel, or that
you have read the book before. If you have not read the book previously, I highly
suggest picking it up, no matter how old you are. If you still hate Holden, feel
free to come back here.
After reading the story, feel free to read my after thoughts, largely regarding J.D
Salinger, a mystical man if ever there was one. I believe his story is important to
fully understanding Catcher, but deserve to be discussed outside of his work. Just
as he would have wanted.