Whatever Happened to Holden Caulfield?

I would like to believe that one of my favorite characters of all time (from one of my favorite books of all time) remained in the exact state as he was depicted throughout the novel. His was a rebellion of a young person well past the Peter and the Lost Boys stage of life and entering the realm where things are ordered to start making sense.

It’s clear from the outset that Holden has no interest in the world around him. Some call him a sociopath because of it but I think his personality is defined by the extreme version of one aspect that all people on the cusp of adulthood experience: lack of place.

To my mind that means Holden is a young man without an anchor. He cannot identify with the world around him because he has no basis for comparison; he exists in a place where people make decisions, take on responsibilities, and carry out what they deem to be meaningful activities. Holden has no foundation on which to build his future house, so these concepts are alien to him. The only place he can look is inward, because that’s the only place with which he is familiar.

So why doesn’t he have an anchor? Upbringing plays a big role, as always. Every once in a while, though, someone comes along for which nothing can be done. All the elements could align perfectly to create an individual that is by rights a societal paragon. Holden is missing at least one key qualifying component that precludes this path: the inability to think outside the immediate moment as it occurs. He sees no past or future. What longings he has toward the next few years of his life and where he wants to be are vague charades that he carelessly entertains, knowing them for what they truly are: cheap imitations of his peers’ ambitions.

Most likely Holden grew up and is probably working in a cubicle somewhere. He doesn’t strike me as the manual labor type, nor as a manager/supervisor/CEO. I think he spends a lot of time wondering why things are the way they are and watching a lot of evening news without having any reaction whatsoever (but he’s still not a sociopath).

In short, Holden was not made for this world. Wherever he is, I hope his mind is still rebelling, even if his body is not.

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Sam Best

Sam Best is a speculative fiction author living in San Diego, CA.

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