An Open Letter to DP’s Holden Caulfields

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An Open Letter to DP’s Holden Caulfields

Photo credit: Sofia Gerli

Photo credit: Sofia Gerli

Photo credit: Sofia Gerli

By Tamar Cohen, Staff Writer

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Dear Charger Friends,

At this point in the year, many of you have recently read J.D. Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye. For those of you who are freshmen, know that this journey of a novel is in your very near future.

When I was a sophomore, Catcher was extremely polarizing – as I believe it still is. Some people sing its praises whenever they are given the chance, while others scoff and write it off as dry, outdated, and positively unlikeable.

I’ll begin with a confession: when I was reading Catcher in tenth grade, I didn’t care for it much myself. It wasn’t until afterward, when I had had some time to ruminate upon the confusion and mess of emotion that is our hero Holden, that I fell in love.

I don’t pretend to think that there is fair representation of race, religion, ability, sexual orientation, or gender expression in the literature studied in public schools; however, Holden represents us all in an extremely profound way, if you know where to look for it.

When we read, whether we know it or not, we are looking for something very specific in the characters we meet. We as teenagers want to read about people like us who are less messy than we are.

Some of us are blatant in our messiness, while others are better at hiding it – if you are of the latter group, I applaud you, for I am not. Either way, no matter what facades we paint on, by the fact of our adolescence we are all a huge mess.

So we search for characters who embody the tidy, all-figured-out people we wish we were.

Ironically, these traits are the same ones that cause us to label our peers, in the words of our dear friend Holden, “phony.”

So when you pick up Catcher in the Rye and think with disgust about the rude, unlikeable Holden Caulfield, notice just how real he is. Put yourself in his place –  you’ll be surprised how easy it is.

See, I’m a serial fiction impersonator. I am constantly drawing parallels between myself and characters. The thing is, I’ve had my Holden Moment.

I’ve found myself alone on public transportation late at night, contemplating my life, having nowhere to spend the night. I’ve sat on my duffel bag in the light of a street lamp, dazed and confused. I’ve struggled to interact normally with the people in my normal life despite the turmoil in my own life.

I’ve been Holden Caulfield. And I’m willing to bet that a fair number of you have been, too. Maybe not in the literal way I have, but he is a piece of all of us.

We’re flawed, we’re confused, we find flaws and confusion within those around us. Unlike so many of our favorite characters, Holden is, too. That’s the reason that Catcher is so universal, so timeless, so important.

Because he is a mess. Just like us. And what does he teach us?

It’s okay to be a mess, to be confused, and to fail to hide it. It’s okay to take too long to work through things, and to not be doing well for a little while. It gives us empathy, lets us understand that others are in similarly messy places.

Hold on to Holden Caulfield. He’s the friend you are going to need at some point in your life. Because all of us fall, but the Holden inside you will always, always catch you.



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