How best can the character of Holden Caufield, in J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, be described? In literature, Holden's character is known as a "picaresque", a character that you love to hate. Holden is a depressed young man, although he shows happiness to society. Although he is intelligent in a very non-traditional way, he fails out of every school he attends. His belligerence somehow draws the reader to him.
Holden shows many sides of his complicated personality. His depression can be found throughout the book, particularly when he informs the reader of his many failures. In the first chapter, Holden gives a brief description of his self-proclaimed "terrible" life. He cites an example which occurred earlier in the day where, as the manager of the school's fencing team, he left the swords on a New York City subway en route to a match. This was a perfect example of his nihilistic attitude showing his lack of desire to be held accountable.
Additionally it can be seen that he takes his inherited privileges of wealth for granted when he eventually fails out of his fourth boarding school. Holden is remarkably intelligent, however he really is your typical "slacker". If his attitude were that of almost any other character, the book would be less readable, but Holden has a special form of charisma that draws the reader to him. Holden is seen throughout the book making rude comments towards people and events that he has not fully understood which exemplifies his attitude towards life. An example of this attitude is clearly shown when he describes his misguided interpretation of a woman who lavishes her pet poodle.
Holden is a confused American teenager; a classical picaresque. His behavior is a result of internal conflict that he has not personally dealt with. Often, he shows a gross lack of respect for people, yet he expects favorable attention from them. Is it possible that everyone has a little Holden Caulfield in them?