Among the most famous of fictional characters to ever exist is Holden Caulfield. The 16-year-old protagonist of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye is still an icon for teenage angst today. His rebellious spirit makes him particularly appealing to adolescent school children learning to bridge the gap between childhood and adulthood. The 1951 novel is, in many regards, considered an American Classic, and around 250,000 copies are sold every year with total sales of more than 65 million books to date.
The book has also been the subject of controversy in American schools due to vulgar language, sexual references, blasphemy, and what some call the undermining of family values. With all the controversy surrounding the novel it has still managed to be one of the most loved and influential books in all of American literature. Holden Caulfield is very cynical and relatable for teens and those who have ever suffered from depression. He is a symbol of something we have all felt as some point in our lives.
There is a long list of characters that were inspired by Holden Caulfield and J.D. Salinger. Without the bad boy Holden Caulfield we may never have seen characters like Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate, Chris Chambers in Stand by Me, Will Hunting in Good Will Hunting, Juno MacGuff in Juno, Charlie in Perks of Being a Wallflower, or even Green Day’s Jesus of Suburbia. The list goes on and on. Salinger loved Holden Caulfield so much he felt protective of him and as a result we were never able to see the classic character himself come to life in a film version of Catcher. After the flop of the recent The Great Gatsby film, who could blame Salinger?
Holden Caulfield was the embodiment of teenage angst. He hated the adult world and thought everything was fake and pointless. When opening up a copy of Catcher in the Rye most teen readers think that somebody finally gets it. The pent up anger and disgust with the way the world works. At some point in our lives everyone feels that things just aren’t the way they should be. People hate growing up, but Holden Caulfield explains why.
A documentary on the extremely reclusive J.D. Salinger is scheduled to come out September 6th. According to the New York Times the new film claims that the legendary manuscripts in a vault will be published in as early as 2015. Much of Salinger’s life was a mystery and it was rumored that after he quit publishing he continued to write. In her memoir, his daughter Margaret Salinger describes the detailed filing system her father had for his unpublished manuscripts: "A red mark meant, if I die before I finish my work, publish this 'as is,' blue meant publish but edit first, and so on." A neighbor said that Salinger told him that he had written 15 unpublished novels. The documentary, which will air after the release on PBS in American Master series, states that Salinger instructed his estate to resume publishing his as-yet unseen work after his death.
On the original Catcher in the Rye jacket cover, there reads a quote: "The boy himself is too simple and too complex for us to make any final comment about him or his story. Perhaps the safest thing we can say about Holden is that he was born in the world not just strongly attracted to beauty but, almost, hopelessly impaled on it."
It is unknown if J.D. Salinger wrote this about Holden Caulfield or not, but one thing's for certain; there is a place in every adolescent’s heart for a boy like Holden Caulfield.