Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Holden at 50

Magazine article The Wilson Quarterly

Holden at 50

Article excerpt

"Holden Caulfield's Legacy" by David Castronovo, in New England Review (Spring 2001), Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vt. 05753.

Holden Caulfield, that young despiser of "phonies," turns 50 this year but shows every sign of remaining America's perpetual adolescent. Immensely popular when first published in 1951, J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye has had "cultural significance and staying power beyond its literary value," observes Castronovo, the author of Edmund Wilson (1985).

Like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Thomas Wolfe's Look Homeward, Angel, and Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, Salinger's novel is "about a lonely young boy who thinks there is something wrong with the world, something essentially dead and phony and disgusting about the arrangement of things," notes Castronovo. But unlike the earlier protagonists, Holden has "no unfolding destiny, no mission," and not even much in the way of dramatic moments.

Turning against what Holden calls the "David Copperfield crap," Salinger made his book antiliterary in a new way, filling it with babbling and "impressions that are overtaken by afterthoughts, comic contradictions, half-recognitions, and canceled insights," Castronovo writes. …

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