Holden Caulfield, Annoying Pessimist or Misunderstood Teen?

Holden Caulfield, Annoying Pessimist or Misunderstood Teen?

The sophomore class is currently reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, a controversial literary classic that is both beloved and criticized by many people all over the world. The main character, Holden Caulfield, tells a relatable story of teenage angst and rebellion.


Caulfield is known for his sarcastic and hypocritical nature, which in turn often causes readers view him as rude, entitled, or whiney.


After reading the first 12 chapters, I asked several sophomores their opinion of Caulfield. Opinions varied, but most saw both the positive and negative aspects of Holden’s attitude.


“He’s really hypocritical, judgmental, and morbid.” said Melina Demokritou. “It can be pretty annoying,” she went on to say.


“He’s so whiny,” said Elise Linnehan, agreeing with Demokritou.


In contrast, Noah Elias-Guy didn’t seem to have anything negative to say about Caulfield. “He’s a real guy. He’s really good at being him,” he said.


English teacher Ms. Duculon said, “I think [Holden] is misunderstood and I really like him. He’s really bright and creative.” She believes that students are still able to relate to Holden even many years after the book was published.


It seems that Ms. Duculon is right. Although their first thoughts about Holden were of annoyance or criticism, most students could connect with him and understood his take on life.


Both Linnehan and Demokritou stated that they could identify with Caulfield. “I can understand his hate for the world,” added Elise.


Liza Russell describes The Catcher in the Rye as “the most relatable book for high-schoolers ever.”


Although she goes on to complain about Holden’s repetitive language, such as the use of the word “goddam,” she believes he is a realistic depiction of a teen, even in today’s society.


“All our generation does is exaggerate or complain, and some of his antics I could totally see a teenage boy doing,” she said.


Gabby Blake summed up the thoughts of not only herself, but of many others, by simply saying, “He’s kind of a jerk, but I kind of love him.”


After finishing The Catcher in the Rye, I asked the same students if their opinion of Holden had changed.


Demokritou said, “I have more sympathy for him now, considering all the things he had to deal with. It’s impressive that he has maintained some of his values, like family.”


“I still think he’s whiny, but overall he’s an okay guy,” said Elise.


Sophie Webster, a junior, fondly remembers the time she spent with Holden in her sophomore year. She admires his desire to protect the innocent and feels that Holden is often misunderstood and portrayed as “angsty,” while he is simply struggling with many problems that all teens eventually face.


“He sees the beauty of innocence as something that needs protecting and valiantly does so, almost to a fault and a bit ironically in the whole ‘Catcher in the Rye’ debacle itself,” she said. Webster summed up her thoughts by describing Holden as a “pretty cool, internal-turmoil-fraught guy with a good heart (even if he has capricious self-control mechanisms).”


It seemed that over the course of the book, students warmed up to Holden and were able to look past some of his impulsive (and often questionable) life choices to see the goodness that lay underneath.

So freshmen, don’t worry! Although you might dislike Holden when you first read Catcher in the Rye, you’ll learn to love him!