Mentioning The Catcher in the Rye is sort of like putting on high-end polarized glasses – it clarifies and contrasts. I knew a kid in middle school, for example, that really identified with Holden Caulfield.
* No, not me. And no, not everyone does. Even if we all rebel in some fashion, and even if some of us act that insufferably, not everyone thinks that he’s an example, much less a brave hero of sorts. In fact it’s an open question whether Salinger himself thought much of Holden, or if he wrote him in order to hold him up for ridicule in comparison to his younger and far-more-competent sister.
I’m thinking of this in light of Catcher’s inclusion in one of those “have you really read it?” lists that goes around the Web occasionally. (For the record, Catcher is one of the eleven books out of the twenty that I have read.) It’s also something of kismet since the Wil Wheaton flapdoodle about his “Hillary’s Harpies” tweet and subsequent cringing obeisance before crybully mob. What happened to Wheaton is actually a lot like what happened to Caulfield in his physical confrontations… which is depressing, because a Holden Caulfield who never grows up is truly sad to contemplate.
That all brings us here, and to this comment by e-migo Nate regarding bullies. Now, they’re bad, mind you. And bullies who never outgrow it are just as depressing as Holdens who never do. They become quite dangerous – in fact, the bullies and the Holdens grow in many ways to resemble each other. But when they come into conflict, well… as they used to say on the nature shows, “Sadly, there can only be one outcome.”