Salinger

In Defense of Holden Caulfield

I honestly don’t know if I’ll ever understand why exactly people hate Holden Caulfield from “The Catcher in the Rye”.

I mean, sure, you could defend your dislike with a classic gem such as, “Oh, he’s just a whiny, pretentious f***boy! He’s so boring, all he does is complain!”

But at that I’m just like

okay, wow, I’m sorry the incredibly depressed mentally ill teenager who has no true friends and is constantly being ignored by the people he tries to reach out to and is constantly being told he’s useless and a bad influence by his peers and has alluded to being sexually molested by multiple people as a little kid and has to deal with the pain and hardship of growing up in a world he can’t help but see as superficial and hypocritical and WHOSE CLASSMATE FRICKIN’ COMMITTED SUICIDE IN FRONT OF HIM isn’t a conventionally cheerful or likeable protagonist????

I don’t understand why that’s so hard for people to grasp; it just straight up BAFFLES me. I mean, people eke out all sorts of ways to like downright villains like Alex (DeLarge) or Loki or Ramsay Snow/Bolton, or antiheros like Jaime/Cersei Lannister, Sherlock Holmes, etc.

Why is it so hard to dole out a little sympathy for Holden, who, ultimately, just wants to protect children from the evils of the world—arguably one of the noblest and most heartbreakingly tender aspirations of all?

-Which fictional character in literature or films would describe you best? -Holden Caulfield (in JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye), maybe. Just for the feeling of alienation. The only thing Holden Caulfield wants to do throughout this whole book is to call this girl, and he never manages to call her, he never manages to get through. And that sums up my life quite well
—  Brian Molko

This Is Why I Collect Copies Of The Catcher In The Rye

On the 65th anniversary of its publication, I wrote about why I own 20 copies of Catcher:

When I first read it, at 20, Catcher was a revelation, but not for the reason you might assume: I fell in love with the language. It is still one of the most exquisitely rendered character studies I’ve ever read. The originality and power and consistency of the voice, so brilliantly controlled, so precisely deployed, not a word out of place. I got goosebumps reading it. It lit a fire in my emerging writer brain: Oh… that’s how you do that.

Read more.