Erin O’Connor, now teaching in a private boarding school, responds to Jonathan Yardley’s attack on one of the most assigned books in high school English classes: J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. Yardley finds the book mawkish and the hero narcissistic:
. . . “The Catcher in the Rye” can be fobbed off on kids as a book about themselves. It is required reading as therapy, a way to encourage young people to bathe in the warm, soothing waters of resentment (all grown-ups are phonies) and self-pity without having to think a lucid thought. Like that other (albeit marginally better) novel about lachrymose preppies, John Knowles’s “A Separate Peace” (1960), “The Catcher in the Rye” touches adolescents’ emotional buttons without putting their minds to work. It’s easy for them, which makes it easy for teacher.
Arguably, J.D. Salinger invented modern adolescence by establishing “whining rebellion as essential to adolescence,” Yardley writes.
All literature is manipulative, responds BookSlut, who thinks Catcher is one of the great American books.
I found Holden Caulfield both affecting and irritating when I read the book, which I think was assigned for English class. He was a whiner, but I felt sorry for him.