I finished my final essay for my AP literature class today. The essay was about The Catcher in the Rye, and for whatever reason, I can’t seem to get my mind off this novel. So I’m going to talk about it more.
Holden Caufield is a far cry from a true protagonist. He’s not a role model, he’s not a great person, and certainly not a hero. But if there’s one thing he is; it’s human. I’ve tried to evaluate just how much of myself I see in Holden Caufield. I’ve noticed we’re both tinged with the same cynicism and hostility that often makes us seem like melancholic people. I can identify with the fact he doesn’t want to grow up because the real world is scary -despite us trying to feign maturity constantly. I can buy into his constructed version of reality because it’s so much more pleasant and hedonistic than the one we live in. I can relate to Holden because, in some sense, I am Holden. We all are.
I understand this might be nothing new to many who may be reading currently, but something about this revelation is almost reassuring. It’s calming to know that numerous others share my fears about the future. That everyone is childish in their own right. That everyone wants to be caught. Then again it’s also humbling to have those irrational sentiments broken down.
I think Salinger understands that Holden isn’t a very great person. Holden is Salinger’s author surrogate after all. However, I think that’s the whole point. I don’t think Salinger wants a society full of people like him. I think he want’s people to be “phony’s,” I think he wants us to play the game of life, I think he wants us to meet a body coming through the rye not catch them.
People will always clap for the wrong reasons. You’ll always wonder where the ducks go when the pond is frozen. You’ll always wonder what happened to your Jane Gallagher. And that’s okay. That’s life.
I going to leave you with the first few lines of The Catcher in the Rye. It’s genuinely one of the greatest openers in literary history and is my testament for why this novel has stood the test of time:
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and all – I’m not saying that – but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goodam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out and take it easy….