When J. D, Salinger died, did Holden Caulfield die too?Very sad to hear about the death of the reclusive J. D. Salinger today, just as I was to hear about the so-called 'sequel' attempt on 'The...

When J. D, Salinger died, did Holden Caulfield die too?

Very sad to hear about the death of the reclusive J. D. Salinger today, just as I was to hear about the so-called 'sequel' attempt on 'The Catcher in the Rye' novel last year. Anyone else here wondering if Holden Caulfield is, in some way, dead now too?

Expert Answers
MaudlinStreet eNotes educator| Certified Educator

My short answer is no. The Catcher in the Rye has appealed to adolescents for decades, for precisely the reasons it will continue to do so for decades more. Salinger created a character that, for many, speaks beyond issues of class, race, time, place, and even gender (although my best friend was upset after reading it in high school, saying she was tired of boys' journeys). Although teens now have Ipods, Facebook, Twitter, texting, and whatever else to keep them busy, there's always a magical moment when one of my students reads The Catcher in the Rye for the first time. There's a search for identity there that most readers recognize, especially adolescents, and it doesn't seem to matter that Salinger's other books don't quite compare, or that there was never a "continuing saga of Holden Caulfield." For Holden Caulfield to die because Salinger is gone, would mean that any great works whose authors have died have now lost something essential. And I simply don;t think that's true. Great literature lives on-that's what makes it great.

dbello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

J.D. Salinger's death moves The Catcher In The Rye from literary work to literary work and legacy. The experiences of Holden Caufield are read in most high school English classes every year, I do not think that will change. However, I think Salinger's passing could envoke a renewed discussion regarding his decision to never sell the rights of the book to the film industry. Although his opinion on the subject was clear... if you wanted to know Holden Caufield read the book. His perspective presents an interesting forum, think about it, Holden Caufield is born from the intuitive mind of J.D. Salinger. However, during Salinger's life he protected Holden's character from the intrusive public film industry by prohibiting a mass production of the novel and thus a mass interpretation of Holden. The Catcher In The Rye is a great American novel  because everyone who reads it sees it their way.

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No way.  Holden has lived with a vigorous thirst for life through Salinger's life as a recluse, and now that the author has passed, the novel itself will again be pushed to the forefront of readership.  There will be even more conspiracy theory movies which mention the title, and many more classrooms will be dusting off their sets of Catcher to invigorate future Salinger fans.

linda-allen eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, of course not. Literary characters never die, so long as there are readers to read their tales. Somewhere in the world, Achilles is dragging Hector's dead body behind his chariot. Hamlet is wondering whether he should live or die. Golum is trying to get that ring away from Frodo. And Holden Caulfield is getting kicked out of prep school and setting out on his exploits.

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

No, what I meant was whether we will ever see Holden grow up now, whether we will find out what happens to him, whether he marries, gets a fulfilling job or 'runs away' to hide out as a writer recluse. I suppose we all approach texts from a unique background of experiences, but as for me - well, I always lived in hopes of a sequel....

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From the news I understand that there are many unpublished books left behind.  So, who knows?  Perhaps Holden Caulfied could be in yet another novel hidden among the others.  J. D. Salinger may have been afraid to reveal his famous character again for fear that his privacy would again be made into a media circus.

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I didn't see any news accounts that reported that there are unpublished books that were left behind.  They reported only that there have been rumors of unpublished books for decades.  Did I miss something?

Also, how autobiographical do most of you consider Caulfield to be?

Doug Stuva eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Are you kidding?  Sales will soar now!  Salinger made the national news today.  Those who haven't read it will want to and those who have read it will buy whatever kind of commemorative edition the publishers come up with.  As far as a figurative death of some kind, what exactly are you thinking of?

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I like to think that Holden is Salinger as I love autobiographical novels - I never read anything that is obviously complete fiction but that's just me. I find autobiographical works have a special quality to them. I'm sure the whole character/life is much more complex than that though.

geenabrown | Student

I believe Holden has already died a little bit. Salinger is and will be the closest thing the world will ever have to a Holden. But also, Holden has to live, it's the last the world has of Salinger.

In response to the question of more books; no, there can't be a sequal. As his readers, we all know J.D. Salinger on a personal level. After reading Catcher, Franny & Zooey, and Nine Stories, I know for a fact that there's no way he would write a sequal. Maybe think about it, but he couldn't betray Holden like that. Furthermore, would we want to know what became of Holden? No, we don't. All we're allowed to know of Mr. Caulfield is what he tells us.

dbliziotis | Student

I think this will allow for a resurgence of Holden Caulfield and literature that was inspired by JD Salinger and Holden.  Having taught Catcher last year for the first time in ten years, my students still refer to it as one of the better books they have readi n high school.

Holden will never die, butr more importantly this will give us a chance to reexamine his original identity and meaning.

epollock | Student

Most classics have no sequel and for Salinger, after the book being critically acclaimed, it would have been foolish of him to write a sequel, and dilute the impact of the book.

epollock | Student

Salinger was exactly the opposite of Holden Caulfield. Holden wanted to rescue people, Salinger wanted to run away from people. From The Catcher in the Rye:

What I like best is a book that's at least funny once in a while…What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn't happen much, though. (Salinger, 1)

How ironic it is for Salinger to end up not being the author Holden wanted him to be.