Since his debut in 1951 as The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield has been synonymous with "cynical adolescent." Holden narrates the story of a couple of days in his sixteen-year-old life, just after he's been expelled from prep school, in a slang that sounds edgy even today and keeps this novel on banned book lists. It begins,
"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."
His constant wry observations about what he encounters, from teachers to phonies (the two of course are not mutually exclusive) capture the essence of the eternal teenage experience of alienation.
I found one sentence in this book that basically sums it up. "I swear to God I'm a madman" -pg. 175. I would say that Holden is a little psychotic, or at least that is the way he comes off in this novel. He is in a great mood one moment and the next he is swearing like a fiend. Holden describes a couple days in his teenage life to us, and you can tell that he has had some terrible experiences. Holden is terrified of "perverts" and speaks freely about his thoughts and feelings. He has no qualms about telling you what he thinks of anything. If you don't like his opinions, too bad. In a way, he is what is often considered to be the "typical American teenager."
I'm not often able to get into a classic novel, but this one captured my attention right away. I felt as though I could connect with Holden and truly understand how he was feeling and what he was going through. It was a great telling of a couple days in a teenagers life. J.D. Salinger is an amazing author! I look forward to picking up more of his classic novels.