In my opinion, this is a beautiful piece of fiction that could be as close you could ever experience inside the mind of an autistic adolescent male.
Holden Caulfield is a seventeen- year-old dropout who has just been kicked out of his fourth school. Navigating his way through the challenges of growing up, Holden dissects the ‘phony’ aspects of society, and the ‘phonies’ themselves: the headmaster whose affability depends on the wealth of the parents, his roommate who scores with girls using sickly-sweet affection.
Written with the clarity of a boy leaving childhood behind, The Catcher in the Rye explores the world with disarming frankness and a warm, affecting charisma which has made this novel a universally loved classic of twentieth-century literature.
It’s funny I had ten pages to go and was so desperate to get the end. Only I was taking my daughter to the cinema to see Trolls, so thought it’s okay I’ll just finish it whilst the lights are on. Which was fine, no problem. However, A Catcher in the Rye does not have a horribly sad ending I felt this overwhelming urge to cry at just how perfect this book was, I must have looked so overwhelmed to be going to see Trolls.
As a sufferer of Asperger’s, I was incredulous at how superbly Stalinger wrote this book narrating the mind of who I consider being an autistic young man ‘Holden Caulfield’. There is no clear diagnosis in the book and this was written in the nineteen-fifties where there was little knowledge of Autism and all mental health conditions were tarred as ‘Mental Defectives’. You would be institutionalized if out of control. In some respects, Holden is out of control, but the control is not so much with others, it’s with his best friend and his worst enemy, his own mind. Oh, I know that feeling all too well. Holden is indecisive but knows what he wants and what he does not. That is not to say that could not change quickly due to a change in circumstance, any minuscule factor, environment, society, mood, pain, fatigue, alcohol or just somebody saying something in a certain tone of voice. Nothing can be done half-heartedly, it’s all or nothing. His mind takes simple suggestions and ideas but must deconstruct it completely to work out every outcome in case it meets a moment he cannot bear, an insecurity, a fear, embarrassment. Making every decision so complex and under pressure of time, rash decisions are made without confidence, other people’s emotions are not considered because too much is in the way. Unfortunately, rash decisions are often left to be pondered and regretted in the future. Even at the lowest points in Holden’s story, he will obsess over things that will seem unimportant and irrelevant, but it is not possible for Holden to let go. It could be a question ‘Where do the fish go when the lake freezes?’ a distraction to protect him when he is at his most vulnerable.
Holden is an exceptional example of how some people really do view the world, these people are often misunderstood as intentionally being hurtful, being selfish and lacking empathy for others. Holden is a character I will not forget, he made me laugh and nearly made me cry, but it was how much I could relate to him, whilst being a fly on the wall of someone very similar to myself. Maybe everyone with ASD can feel, maybe they can’t I’m not sure. Maybe Holden represents something else to others.
If there is one thing I am sure of is that Holden will make one helluva impression and certainly mean something.
First published 16 July 1951
Author ~ J. D. Salinger
Little, Brown and Company