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Holden Caulfield

From Academic Kids

Holden Caulfield is the fictional teenaged protagonist in J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye, first published in 1951. Holden is the brother of Phoebe, D. B. and Allie Caulfield, though Allie is dead in the time of the story. Holden's parents are unnamed.

The character, as Holden Morrisey Caulfield, also appears in Slight Rebellion off Madison by J.D. Salinger, published in the December 22, 1946 issue of The New Yorker. The short story later became a chapter in The Catcher in the Rye.

In the book, Caulfield is 17 years old and residing in a psychiatric hospital in the state of California. He narrates the story of the novel, which had occurred over several days during the previous year, as a first-person narrative flashback. During the course of the novel, Caulfield fights with his roommate, flunks out of the fictional Pencey Preparatory School in Pennsylvania (said to be based on the Valley Forge Military Academy, which Salinger attended), and travels by himself to New York City, where he undergoes several experiences that cause him to become disillusioned with life and which lead him to the hospital.

Among his adventures: he sends for a prostitute to come to his hotel room so he can lose his virginity, but loses his nerve at the last minute and sends her away; he runs into an older female aquaintance and tries to seduce her, but instead gets drunk and makes a fool of himself; and returns home to see his beloved little sister Phoebe, whose honesty with and disappointment in him profoundly disturb his previously cocky, superior attitude.

Given the assumed date the novel is set, the character of Holden would have been born in approximately 1933.

Physically, Holden is gangly and tall. Though he looks a little older than he actually is, even having some gray hairs, he often acts immaturely and capriciously. He has a certain disdain for what he sees as "phony," which seems to include just about everyone and everything. Holden—deeply flawed, but basically good at heart—is the textbook example of an antihero.

Holden Caulfield is one of the most enduring characters in 20th century American fiction, and one with which many teenagers and adults have identified—most (in)famously in the case of Mark David Chapman, the former mental patient who murdered John Lennon.

The Catcher in the Rye is required reading in many high school English courses today.

External links

  • Salinger's uncollected short stories appear regularly on the web only to be taken down again. Slight Rebellion off Madison (http://www.freeweb.hu/tchl/salinger/madison.html) should work for now.
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