The other day I had a coworker tell me that he hated the book Catcher in the Rye and he can’t stand the protagonist, Holden Caulfield. That, he’s a douche bag who just wants attention and goes through life judging everyone when really, he’s no better than anyone else. Meanwhile, I’m sitting there thinking to myself how Catcher in the Rye is actually my favorite book and I’ve reread it 5 times and even plan on naming my first cat Holden Caulfield.
Don’t get me wrong, my coworker is absolutely right about Holden. He’s annoying. You spend majority of the book hating him.
But on some twisted level, you resonate with the little douche bag.
In case someone actually reads this and has no idea what this book is about, Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger basically follows the existential crisis of sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield. He’s just been kicked out of another school and finds himself wandering around New York City for a few days trying to keep himself busy so he doesn’t just sit around alone and depressed.
The most notorious aspect of this book is how Holden calls everyone a phony. He spends majority of the time telling you why he hates the people around him. Sometimes it’s because they use words such as grand or being extra nice to people you knew had something to offer you. Each person that he encounters is someone that you’ve more than likely encountered during your lifetime, such as a nosy neighbor or someone asking how you are even though they care more about someone you know and hope you’ll tell them about said person or even a pimp who’s trying to be intimidating by just saying the same threatening phrase over and over again. (I’ve never had that last encounter but I’m sure someone has.)
Then there’s Holden. He isn’t any better than anyone else you’ve met in the book even if he is the protagonist. He’s just outspoken. And observant. He recognizes that there are things around him that make him uncomfortable. But unlike everyone else around him, he chooses to publicly acknowledge these feelings instead of ignoring them.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone and felt that it was already planned out? That you two are almost following a script. They say one thing and you respond with the appropriate response and vice versa. And if someone disrupts this “scene” you get very uncomfortable or even upset that this person isn’t acting accordingly. Holden recognizes that everyone acts accordingly to what society has taught them. And it disgusts him that everyone is acting in accordance to what is expected of them versus their own feelings or instincts.
We could go more into depth about this, but this isn’t a book review with MLA citations, and I am in no position to give my subpar analytical opinion about Salinger’s intention. But I do think everyone should give this book a chance. You either end up loving it or hating it. I personally identify with Holden way more than any person should so maybe I’m a bit bias about this being my favorite book (I’m actually VERY bias). But something that’s very significant about Holden’s character is that, whether you hate him or love him, he’s you.
He’s the little voice in your head that most of us have been taught to keep shut. In a way, he’s a reflection of your disgusts and fears. And because of that, you find comfort in his uneasiness.
And that’s why I love this book as much as I do.
“I’ll be alright. I’m just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, don’t they?”
“The trouble was, that kind of junk was sort of fascinating to watch, even if you don’t want it to be.”
“New York’s terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed.”
“I’m always saying ‘Glad to’ve met you’ to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”
“I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.”
“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior.”