Holden Caulfield is teen angst bull-crap with a pickax. He's sarcastic, nasty, and completely unlikeable. He also doesn't give a crap. He is every teenager caught between the crapy little games of high school ("you're supposed to kill yourself if the football team loses or something") and the fear of adulthood ("going to get an office job and make a lot of money like the rest of the phonies").
The greatness in Holden Caulfield is that what he has to say is better than a million Celestine Prophecies or anything said by Jonathan Livingston Seagull (save for the squawks after you shoot him) or Jesus (save for the apocryphal "hey Peter I can see your house from here"). Holden Caulfield says that life sucks, everyone is a phony, and you'll be inevitably disappointed by everyone that you hold in awe. If you think that this sounds awful, ask yourself one question.
When was the last time you found any joy in watching Barney or the Care Bears? It isn't just what he says but the way he says it. He goes through life making dead-on observations that completely shoot the kneecaps out from under the terminally self-righteous. When a successful mortician tells the school to follow his example and pray when things go bad, it is Holden Caulfield who points out that the guy is praying for more people to die. He's depressed by nuns and annoyed by shallow girlfriends, while in love with his platonic friend.
Even more interesting is the fact that Caulfield's general pissed off attitude and his hormones are inextricably linked. He practically wants to kill his roommate, Stradlatter, because Stradlatter might have screwed a girl he desires. He guiltily admits to making out with phonies, and in a major confession he confesses to being a...