The ultimate antihero in American literature. I hope you folks don't mind me using a colorful metaphor but Holden is what me and my buddies would call a "fucked up unit". He seemingly is suffering from a vast mid-life crisis while still in his teens. He is intelligent but aimless. Hmm, sounds like quite a few people I converse with, and even myself, except now I've been out of my teens for many moons and I am suffering a true mid life crisis. It probably says something of his character that he was created by J.D. Salinger, a man who nearly invented the word recluse.

I have decided to reproduce here one of my earlier works of writing, verbatim. I wrote it to have a different perspective from the bland essays the other students were handing the teacher on The Catcher in the Rye, so I created this. The reference in the last sentence of the last paragraph will only be truly understood by those familiar with Homer's The Odyssey. Enjoy.


Holden Caulfield, the main character and narrator in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is a hunter of truth, a hunter whose actions are often misinterpreted as hypocritical. Holden is a samurai in a hunting cap; pessimism and cynical outlook are his double-edged sword. Symbolism and irony fuel his passion. An invisible cloak of humility protects the lone soldier from the world. The brave soul goes forward with armament, food, and armor in his quest to see through all that is, “phony”.

The author repeatedly places melancholy and misanthropic spirit as the primary tool for locating truth. In Chapter 10, the stalwart gladiator enters a hotel lobby, in which his perspective and description are merciless, dissecting every element of the scene and removing and analyzing every single aspect that disturbs him. The narrator immediately identifies a member of the band as, “phony”, recognizing the misuse of talent and disguise of disgusting society. At first this may be observed as hypocritical, since the minstrel of the story seems to represent every quality of those described. This teller of tales speaks not from hypocrisy, but from wisdom, as can be seen and understood through the popular adage, “The difference between a sage and a fool, is that a sage knows he’s a fool.”

Throughout the novel the main character, while orating the dual role of warrior and bard, often remarks, “That killed me.” This is the protagonist’s way of identifying irony. Phoebe Caulfield, the boy’s kid sister, has the same childhood innocence that the hero wishes for, but then the troubadour would be powerless to help the vociferous female child retain her naiveté. The painful irony is what triggers the martyr’s aphorism. It is this very irony that induces the sacrifice’s vigor.

Even while wielding an implement of war it is necessary to defend yourself in other ways; in the case of the sagacious warrior, humbleness is essential. Modesty prevents detection of lack of phoniness in a person. In Chapter 13, the modern jongleur makes a foolish decision; he removes the armor, disguise, and shielding, and behaves like he actually feels. That one incident alone resulted in the seeker of truth being pummeled almost to death. The phony armor is imperative to survival; those who are not phony must appear phony to those who are in order to live through experiences with them.

Holden never finds real truth anywhere but in child hood innocence. After all the preparation and the long journey, Phoebe is the only relic that satisfies him. The smart young girl proves to be the only genuine article. Her free will and youthful spirit let her roam free above all that is, “phony”. The hunter nearly cries at the end of the novel, but it is only Phoebe, hearing of his expulsion, that holds nothing back and cries. Phoebe, “who really cried.”

The Rant

It was my dad's birthday a couple of days ago. He's like 65 or something. To tell you the truth I don't care. I didn't even come and visit. I mean, who would like to visit an alcoholic freak that keeps harping about ducks in the winter. Only Aunt Phoebe comes, her husband never does. They never did get along, even before the marriage. My dad keeps calling him a no-good polo-playing mother fucker. I like my uncle. He gave me one of the best gifts for Christmas. He does fuck around, my uncle. But then again, who doesn't?

One thing dad always talks about is his cat. Forgot his name though. He'll always talk about the day he left mom and called the cat. He swears up and down that the cat did a double take and followed him. Like I give a shit. Who cares about a lousy cat anyway?

So why am I telling you this? Well, dad has been in and out of all sorts of institutions. Whenever people see me, they tell me I remind them of him. And then their eyes would just spell out, loony jr. That just fucking gets my cow! I have been consistently been in the top of the class since like Kindergarten. I have AP classes coming out of my fucking ears. Got so many academic awards, I treat them like fuck friggin' toilet paper. And with all this, they look at me as my father's son. I get to be treated as the Son of Frankenstein. I am a freak. A half bred, well-off, uber-geek, freak of nature. I am way past pissed off, I'm telling you

So anyway, two weeks ago, Nelson, that no-good goat bitch, called me and told me that there's going to be a kegger or something Friday night. Asked me if I wanted to come. Hmmm.... let's see, alcoholic father is to Frankenstein as Frankenstein's son is to drink beer. Right. I told him to fuck his momma, the doctor who delivered him and the horse they rode on, gave him the finger and thanked him for inviting me and walked home. So, now, I get this black eye, and a broken nose for being polite enough to thank him for the invite.

Like every teenager, Holden Caufield, the main character in J.D. Salinger’s novel "The Catcher in the Rye"; is emotional, opinionated, and searching for himself. However, unlike most teenagers, Holden is so opinionated and hypocritical that it’s hard for him to make friends, and to convey any feelings to them. As a result, Holden puts on different "masks" when dealing with everyone. With children, he is kind and sensitive to their needs, even if he does not know them. With classmates, he tries to act cool and tough. With girls, it’s a whole different story. Any girl he’s ever come across with will know a different Holden. Holden’s emotions and egos differ by the people he interacts with.

Holden‘s younger brother, Allie, who died of leukemia when Holden was 13; was a huge part of who Holden was, because Allie was the one person he could really relate to and talk to. Holden was sensitive and emotional with his brother, and talks of him very fondly - " {Allie} was two years younger than me, but about fifty times as smart" . So, when he dies, Holden’s hope is gone as well. Anger and grief replace what once was normalcy, and change enters. Holden seems like he can’t handle change, either getting angry or stubborn about things he doesn’t like.

When he lost Allie, he lost the part of himself that knew how to truly love and care, which is why Holden is so bitter about life in general.
Holden’s conversations with Stratlader illustrates this bitterness and anger. He says he is "Phony", a jock, a ladies’ man. Stratlader especially annoys Holden when he goes on a date with Jane Gallagher, a childhood friend of his. When Stratlader comes home from this date, Holden purposely annoys him by smoking in the room. "God, how I hated him".

Eventually, Holden’s immaturity and irritating behavior gets to Stratlader and he beats him up.

Holden purposely hurts people because it makes him feel better. It boosts his ego(s). However, all his hiding from himself makes him go insane, and we hear "The Catcher in the Rye" as a flashback from a hapless Holden in a mental institution.

This is another part of "Holden Fucking Caulfield" God, I fucking hate Holden Caulfield.

node your homework

Holden Caulfield is the main character and anti-hero of J. D. Salinger's novel 'The Catcher in the Rye' and champion of a generation of bewildered teenagers. Many people can identify strongly with his character, experience and ambitions, his character was allegedly the inspiration of John Lennon's murderer. What is it about Holden Caulfield that makes people idolize his not typically heroic disposition? I myself was deeply puzzled by this, as after I first read the novel, I felt no great desire to scrawl on the inside of the book and rush out and shout about its brilliance, nor did I particularly empathize with Mr. Caulfield. In fact to tell you the truth he got on my nerves, with his self-importance and irritating expressions. But I was intrigued by the reaction other people have had to this book, so I re-read it, and although I still disliked the character I found some ratification for the fascination rendered by his being and will relate what I found about him here.

The most important feature of Holden's personality is his dislike of change. This is reflected in his persistence in finding out where the ducks go. However the fact that he doesn't - or can't - accept the obvious reason shows us that he is still, despite his rebellious exterior, both extraordinarily naive and childish (or stupid). I suspect that if any cab-driver was unfortunate enough to tell Holden the truth he would be met by the reply, "How does a duck know what direction south is?" This was one of the reasons I found his character difficult to accept. How can a sixteen year old boy not realise something that my nine year old sister knows? It was so startling to me that I started to have doubts about it myself. Where do ducks go in winter? Is it different in America? No, it isn't, merely an indication of how two minds can operate in completely different ways.

One of the big factors in my dislike of Holden is the constant abuse of phonies, when in my opinion, Holden is a phoney himself. This is a boy, who wants to preserve his childhood, yet engage in the 'adult' activities of boozing and smoking. I find this slightly hypocritical, and consequently find it hard to empathise with his efforts to cut off the road to adulthood. Another thing I found phoney about him is his wish not "to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anyone," when he had spent the majority of the story initiating discussions with various people he meets. Holden also annoys me by being seemingly unable to distinguish fantasy from reality, and in doing so taking an extremely narrow-minded view of "the goddam movies."

Although I do agree with Holden about some of the people he calls phonies - headmasters and ministers for example - I get deterred from liking him by some crazy statement he comes out with, and nearing the end of the book I was beginning to weary of the many things that 'killed' him. But I also find Holden's views on religion are spot on. He admits he is an atheist, but he realised what Jesus was about, and how redemption was a key factor in his teachings, something that many devout Christians seem to forget. I hadn't expected those to be Holden's views and the new aspects of his beliefs certainly retained my interest in his character for a little longer. Ultimately too many of Holden's ideals conflict with my own for me to be able to care about his troubles or to identify strongly with him.

Neither do I like Holden's apparent naivety. I have already discussed his passion for ducks, but I also found him very immature for a sixteen year old boy who roams the streets of New York at night. He seems to believe that he is better than virtually everyone he meets, and yet seems unable to face up to all his own problems, like his failure of the education system, his mental health and his lack of a real friend he can converse with. He has no real understanding of life, illustrated by the way he acts about ducks and graffiti and his behaviour with the prostitute. He also chooses to ignore the advice given to him by Mr Spencer, and Mr Antolini, who had previously seemed to be a trusted mentor.

But Holden, despite his problems has developed a plan. He will be "the Catcher in the Rye", and any little children foolish enough to fall off the cliff and become adults will be saved, by Holden personally. Unsurprisingly this proves impossible to implement, as it seems little children don't want this crazy youth interfering with their lives. Indeed as Holden notes, "you could tell they didn't want me around, so I let them alone." After this attempt to do something about the phoney world Holden turns his attention to alternative solutions. Not wanting to grow-up and not having a passport to Never-Never Land, Holden at least had the good sense not to relinquish his life of his own free will, on the grounds that he "didn't want a bunch of stupid rubbernecks looking at me when I was all gory." After that he even starts to fret when he thinks he's going to die of pneumonia, and although it may be alcohol talking, he pronounces his sorrow for his parents, but is yet again concerned about remote relatives coming to his funeral, "the whole goddam stupid bunch of them."

Thankfully, by the end of the book, Holden has grown up. It takes a while to realise this, as it just sounds like the same old Holden, but he gives it away with the admission, "I sort of miss everybody I told you about." This hints that his childhood is over, and now the experiences he has just recounted are just boyhood memories. I hope this adult Holden will survive his New York experiences and be able to live a happy life, but Holden remains as uncommitted as ever.

I do not really have any great fondness for Holden, and would not be thrilled to meet him in person. It would never work, him and I, as I would think of him as a paranoid yank drop-out, and him of me as some kind of boring phoney. I can just about discern where his attractions might lie, for the very things about him that irritate me might endear him to someone else. And I can recognize a tinge of sadness in time's inevitable passing. But for me Holden Caulfield is just another waste by-product of the fabled rotting American dream.


Written in 1995, for my Higher English class.

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