I’ve made it a point to read books that I was supposed to read when I was younger. Classics that everyone says I should have read, but didn’t. I went right from the Chronicles of Narnia into LoTR and then parked myself in SFF for a decade. In college I studied medieval and ren lit, mostly avoiding modern literature. So I missed a lot of authors I know I should have read: Melville, Fitzgerald, Vonnegut, Salinger.
I started with Catcher in the Rye because it’s supposed to be the quintessential story of teenage rebellion. I found it quite lacking. I didn’t see a rebel. I saw a very sensitive boy with deep psychological problems. In a large way, I could really relate to him because of my own mental health issues when I was younger. His views were severe. He hated fake people, but he found that everyone was fake at one point or another (with the exception being children, whom he was constantly drawn to) and so he detested everyone. Yet he was constantly lonely because when you’re convinced everyone is fake, and you take the position that you hate fake people, who do you hang out with? But Holden attempted to hang out with those people he considered fake many times, ultimately leading him to further loneliness and depression.
The one girl he held on a pedestal was the one person he couldn’t call because he was afraid that should she answer the phone she would destroy his pristine image of her and he needed someone (other than his sister) in his life who was above reproach, who met his image of goodness.
I also believe that Holden was a homosexual, based on numerous clues throughout the novel. But that’s a discussion for another time.
The point is that Holden Caulfield was an utterly unlikeable character. I felt horribly for him, certainly, but he is certainly NOT a symbol of teenage rebellion. I don’t really feel that this book is the enlightening book many have claimed it to be. It was a nice read, but I often found it boring and had to force myself to finish it. Maybe time will give me more insight.
Next up: The Slaughterhouse Five.