I recall hating every moment of being inside of Holden Caufield's psyche.
The now deceased J.D. Salinger's classic novel was required high school reading and I hated turning every page of it. I couldn't understand for the life of me how someone could be so pessimistic; so down on himself and the world around him.
After Salinger's recent passing, the New York Times asked the question, "Does 'Catcher in the Rye' resonate with teenagers today? Does the Holden Caulfield version of alienation speak to a generation connected on Facebook?"
My guess? It probably does. The same kinds of kids who completely identified with the protagonist when I read it ten years ago, are probably the same kinds of kids who I identify with it now - no matter how touched by technology their lives are.
Among the varied responses to the Times' article, one high school English teacher Patrick Welsh relates his students' reactions to the novel: "Others say Holden is a whiner, a rich spoiled brat who ought to shut up and get on with his life." Ding! Ding! Ding! That was me.
I was the kid who was taught to count her blessings and say Thank You Jesus for waking me up this morning and starting me on my way... everyday. So I couldn't relate to the depression, angst and cynicism bred from a life of privilege, that my classmates knew all to well. Instead, I recognized my privilege to sit in that classroom and read that book, and so despite hating it, I'm sure I got an A on that test. That was how I said Thank you Mommy and Daddy for spending more money than you have on my education.
It seemed all too often that many of my peers lacked that self awareness. And that lack of self awareness somehow led to a lack of self confidence and esteem. The effect? Being 16 and 17 years old surrounded by young ladies plagued with suicide attempts, eating disorders, depression and drug/alcohol abuse. The number of girls in my school who dealt with such serious issues as children always amazed me.
It is true that I don't know what went on in their homes that truly led them to that place. But what I do know is what went on in my home that kept me away from that place. I had an understanding of myself within the context of my family, my faith, and my history. All of which I learned as a small child. So by the time I hit my teen years amongst this population that identified so closely with Caufield, I couldn't do anything but feel like everybody just needed to go sit in a corner somewhere and count their blessings.
Indeed, Salinger's work is a classic, but I'm hoping maybe one day I'll write a new classic. One which reflects one of my dad's favorite sayings: That children need to know WHO and WHOSE they are.
What about you? Do you identify with Holden Caufield or do you want to write a new teen classic that's a bit more optimistic or understanding?