On Holden, You Lack Empathy, Isle

On Holden, You Lack Empathy, Isle

You say that you don’t hate Holden. Then, you call him a “troubled outsider who sucks”. That’s kind of hating Holden, Isle. You want people to stop talking about Holden as if he’s a real person. But the voice in the text is the expression of Salinger’s experiences. In that sense, Holden is the reflection of a real person.

People that love Holden usually appreciate the humor and identify with the disconnect and loneliness that he expresses in the story. Readers who like Holden often yearn for authenticity. As an adult, I imagine the text as a testimony to Salinger’s feelings of estrangement – returning to society after the war.

When I read the story as a teenager, I felt more connected to Holden than to anyone in my life. That was a sad time for me. Finding more in common with a fictional character than with a family member or close friend reflected my loneliness. Loving Holden – to some degree – can also be an admission of angst and incompleteness. 

When you discourage people from engaging in discussions about Holden, you may be stopping them from processing feelings of angst and disconnect. People find comfort in these discussions. They learn about themselves and others. Coming out against these conversations seems unsympathetic to me.

A reader that doesn’t like the style or the content of “The Catcher in the Rye” would usually just roll their eyes and move on. But Isle, you go out of your way here to publicly dis the character and put down the debate. Maybe there’s a part of you, Isle, that actually hates Holden? Would your life improve if you had more empathy?

Literature can help people understand themselves and the world around them. The stories and characters can function as validation for one’s feelings and experiences. Having conversations that expand our worldview can result in people becoming more empathetic and kind. 

Love Holden. Hate Holden. Feel how you feel. Lack empathy, even, if you want. Be free to express yourself, but maybe you could hold back a little from raining on the Holden parade? Discouraging others from sharing opinions and experiences detracts from our efforts to better understand the human condition

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