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The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield

Depictions of Holden

Below are several artists' depictions of Holden Caulfield. Consider what each one suggests about his character and what he represents.

Photo Excerpts From: WikiBooks, Laura Brown. “Understanding Holden Caulfield.” iBooks.  

The Rebel in the 1950s

About Holden Caulfield

Holden Caulfield: Iconic Character 
Holden Caulfield is the 16-to-17 years old protagonist of author J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye. He is universally recognized for his resistance to growing older and desire to protect childhood innocence. Since the book's 1951 publication, Holden has become an icon for teenage rebellion and angst, and now stands among the most important characters of twentieth-century American literature. The name Holden Caulfield, as shown below, was used in an unpublished short story written in 1942 and first appeared in print in 1945.

Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye
Holden Caulfield is the narrator and main character of The Catcher in the Rye. The novel recounts the days following Caulfield's expulsion from Pencey Prep, a university preparatory school based loosely on Valley Forge Military Academy, Salinger's alma mater. Caulfield tells his story in cynical and jaded language, often using disparaging language and profanity.

Holden Caulfield in other works
The character, as Holden Morrisey Caulfield, also appears in Salinger's "Slight Rebellion off Madison", published in the December 21, 1946 issue of The New Yorker. An earlier version of this story, titled "Are You Banging Your Head Against a Wall?" was accepted for publication by The New Yorker in October 1941, but was not published then because editors found the tone to be too desolate for its readership. An edited version of this short story later became the basis of several chapters in the middle-late section of The Catcher in the Rye dealing with Caulfield's date with Sally Hayes, during which he confesses his desire to run away with her, he meets Carl Luce for drinks, and he makes a drunken phone call to the Hayes home. Unlike the similar sequence in the novel, Caulfield is on a Christmas break from school, and, in the story, the interlude with Sally is split into two occurrences. Also, the meeting with Carl Luce is considerably briefer in the story than in the novel.

Caulfield also figures as a character in the short story "I'm Crazy", published in Colliers (December 22, 1945), and other members of the Caulfield family are featured in "Last Day of the Last Furlough", published in The Saturday Evening Post (July 15, 1944) and the unpublished short stories "The Last and Best of the Peter Pans" (ca. 1942) and "The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls" (ca. 1945).

"I'm Crazy" is closely related to what would become the first chapter of The Catcher in the Rye. It begins with Caulfield standing on a hill at "Pencey Prep" watching a football game below, and develops as Holden visits with his history teacher, Mr. Spencer, for a talk about his expulsion from school and his future. Several other details match those found in the first chapter of Catcher, including a reference to the mother of one of Caulfield's schoolmates and to his own mother sending him a gift of ice skates, but the story[…]”

Excerpt From: WikiBooks, Laura Brown. “Understanding Holden Caulfield.” iBooks.