Grace Elizabeth Hale (Fellow, 2002–03)
April 12, 2012
Holden Caulfield is an unlikely rebel. The son of affluent parents, enrolled in (and expelled from) expensive prep schools, untouched by poverty or racism, he would seem to have it made in the booming 1950s. Yet he is estranged from his parents, teachers, and friends. For him the world is insincere and untrustworthy or, as he would say, “phony.” His downward spiral through “madman stuff” in Manhattan leaves him contemplating suicide. Why? And why did his story resonate with so many white middle class kids that they made it an American classic? What was Holden rebelling against, and what does his rebellion tell us about America in the 1950s and 60s? A role model over half a century ago, is he one today?