We are doing these profiles now, I guess!
Holden Caulfield is a high school senior from New York. Like all boys his age, he thinks a lot about what he wants to do with his life. He wants to just stand in the rye at the edge of a cliff and catch children before they fall off. That’s all he would really like to do. But life is never that simple.
Holden Caulfield is 16 and happy not to be a phony. To be a phony would be the worst thing in the world, likely. It would just kill him. He’d have to pretend to give a crap about the opera and crummy things like that, which he doesn’t ever want to do. He might not be a phony, but everyone around him is.
Holden is prone to exaggeration. He says you have to say things you don’t mean in order to survive the world. He hates, for instance, saying he is happy to meet people he isn’t at all happy to have met. That is phony, according to Holden.
He recently paid for the companionship of a sex professional but just wanted to talk to her. This got him into trouble, he says, but he doesn’t really understand why. Holden often rails against a world where you have to say things you don’t mean. It makes him sick, as do morons and phonies and guys who are bores and like to talk about how much mileage they get for gas in their cars.
I walk with Holden to Central Park to visit the ducks. Holden has a lot of brilliant insights to share about the world, and if anything, I wish this profile were longer, so we could think about him more. Holden, for instance, does not want to be a lawyer because he might not know if he were a phony.
Holden doesn’t approve of gay people, whom he calls flits. Mr. Antolini, his old English teacher, was a flit, Holden thinks. Mr. Antolini once stroked his hair, and Holden does not think he overreacted by fleeing the man’s apartment and spending the rest of the night at Grand Central Station.
Holden is known for not overreacting. He is calm and clear-headed and often acts older than his age, he reports while waiting to feed the ducks. He often wonders where the ducks go when the winter comes. Do you think a truck comes and takes them to a zoo somewhere, or do they just fly off? He writes wonderful essays and has many profound thoughts. But people never notice anything. Holden notices many things. Holden is not a moron or a phony, unlike those who surround him.
Holden has given a good deal of thought to death since losing his brother. Like many teenagers, he thinks he will not want flowers when he is dead. “Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.” He hates it when people write obscenities in public places and is convinced someone will write an obscenity on his tombstone.
There was an incident at school where Holden got into a fight, and he will not be welcome back this term. Holden says it was not his fault. That seems right.
He is sort of an atheist, he says, but he likes Jesus and all, although the disciples annoy the hell out of him.
He wants to grow up to be a catcher in the rye, a real profession that certainly exists. He will stand at the edge of a cliff and catch children before they fall off the cliff to their death. His mother refused to be interviewed, but Holden feels that she does not consider rye-catching a growth industry. The only person who understands his desire is his younger sister, Phoebe, who symbolizes childhood innocence. But we will not be hearing from her until later, if at all.
He has also contemplated getting a job at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, where he plans never to speak again and to communicate only by writing on a piece of paper. This would help avoid “useless conversations.”
Holden has his life all planned out, and we have a lot to learn from Holden and kids like him.
It was good that I profiled him. Holden gives us all a lot to think about. It is good to know what life is like now. We are, however, working on some other profiles, just on the off-chance his turns out not to be the typical American boy’s experience. (Seems phony, but okay.)
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