Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sometimes the liars reveal the most truth: Holden Caulfield, Salinger's Monster

I recently started rereading Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.  Even though I know where Holden Caulfield is in his journey of self-deception and punishment, I still get caught up with the slow reveal of his anger.  Salinger in the first three sentences tells the reader exactly where Caulfield is and how he has yet to find balance. Still, I find myself walking along beside this struggling character, listening to what he hates in his effort to avoid what he loves.  That ongoing chatter the first person narrative provides that begins so truly as teenage angst before it begins its slow, slick slide into, well read and see for yourself.

Every writer should read it for the lesson alone of how to create a character that tells all while he thinks he has hidden all his best secrets, the quintessential unreliable narrator.  Every reader over the age of 15 should read this book.  It's makes one grin at first hearing him say all the things every polite individual wishes he could belt out so unconsciously and honestly.  Somewhere along the line, the reader comes to a realization: Holden is not chatting at length for every teenager who wishes he could speak his mind so easily, but for his own salvation, his own need to divorce himself from his shortcomings, his desire for forgiveness, presumably from the reader, but in reality from himself.  Reader or writer, read it, read it more than once.

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