Who is Holden in The Catcher in the Rye?
Holden Caulfield is the protagonist of J.D. Salinger's well-known novel published in 1951, The Catcher in the Rye.
Reflective, bright, but in a state of despair, Holden Caulfield is presented as a portrait of a boy becoming a man and resisting the process every step of the way.
Critics have understood Holden's reluctance in a number of ways, some of which find deep flaws in the character's psyche and others in the world he is thrust into.
Commented the great American novelist William Faulkner, who praised Salinger's novel, "When Holden attempted to enter the human race, there was no human race there."
Holden is a young man, a teenager, who flunks out of a prep school at the opening of the book and spends a few days in New York City, alone though his family lives there, trying to avoid telling his mother and father that he has been kicked out of yet another school.
Holden's choice to fend for himself in the city is in keeping with his character.
Holden Caulfield is a deeply troubled sixteen-year-old boy who is totally alienated from his environment and from society as a whole.
Over the course of the story, Holden reminisces about his younger brother who died of leukemia and reflects on his experiences with the people he has known in his life. While in New York, Holden also goes on a date, meets up with his younger sister Phoebe, and has a meeting with another friend from the past. Various adventures befall Holden along the way, including two negative sexual encounters (or psuedo-sexual encounters).
For reasons that remain open to interpretation, Holden feels that he must rebel against the falseness of society that he sees around him. He wishes to protect the innocence of his sister Phoebe, as well as his own sense of innocence.
Often, Holden rails against the "phonies" he sees in the world around him and espouses a distinct preference for the companionship of children. He is a complex figure, full of turmoil and bearing a "bleeding heart", struggling to find some semblance of salvation for himself though we (the audience) cannot know the exact nature of the demons that haunt him.
We only know what Holden, as the first-person narrator, tells us.
Holden Caulfield is both tragic and funny, innocent and obscene, loving and cruel, clear-sighted yet viewing the world from a warped perspective, an expert in identifying phonies and the greatest phony himself.