Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ode to Holden Caulfield: It's Been a Nice Life, Mr. Salinger

In 1951, Harry Truman was President of the United States. In a way, he was a kind of rebel; no college education but leader of the USA. That same year, J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye was published. The book was one of the first examples of a work that clearly supported the idea of the following decade, "don't trust anyone over 30."

J.D. Salinger died January 27, 2010. His most famous work, Catcher in the Rye, continues to showcase the beginning divide between teenagers and adults in American culture. This kind of rebellious youth character became a standard character in Hollywood, especially with actors like James Dean. Interestingly, Salinger pretty much hated the film industry. Salinger was actually something of a recluse.

Salinger may have kept to himself, and his book may be something you only vaguely remember from a middle school or high school English class. Catcher in the Rye, however, is an important piece of American culture, especially for America's youth. The baby boomers can tip their hats (the ones they never thought they'd wear until years later they became the Establishment) to Mr. Salinger for spurring the wave of youth rebellion that would later populate much of the 1960s. His work, though, extends to every generation of American adolescents. With Holden Caulfield, Salinger captured a mindset of American youth that pervades regardless of the decade. More importantly, Caulfield is an example of youthful rebellion. Caulfield reminds us that it's okay to rebel and be young.

James Dean was the rebel without a cause. Holden Caulfield was the kid that let every other kid know he, too, could rebel. In case you didn't pick up on the title, it's the same as a Boy Meets World episode that focuses on the favorite teenage rebel of '90s TV, Shawn Hunter. Caulfield surely got around or at least his influence did. Thanks Mr. Salinger for capturing the rebellious nature of teenagers. It's helping us all grow up and learn to meet the world as boys and girls.

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