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Holden Caulfield: My Own Personal Peeta Mellark

Holden Caulfield: My Own Personal Peeta Mellark

We had so many great Book Week submissions that we couldn't fit them all in last week—but let's be honest: every week is Book Week on SparkLife.—Sparkitors

Seeing everyone else’s posts about books that changed their lives inspired me, but I’m not sure I’ve ever had that kind of experience. I’ve read books that I loved, books that made me laugh, cry, cringe, and (maybe) fall to my knees shouting to the heavens because every date-able guy I know pales in comparison to fictional ones. (Seriously, would it kill some of these guys to have Peeta Mellark’s sweetness or Edmond Dantes’s smarts?) But I can’t remember any book ever giving me an epiphany, and I’m pretty sure I’d remember something like that. But I did once read a book that became the Peeta to my Katniss in a time when I really needed a metaphysical boy with the bread. It was a book that reminded me that I was not alone. That book was The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger.

You see, I was your typical moody, overly dramatic, self-centered teenager. I was convinced the world, and, more specifically, my school, was created purely for the purpose of reminding me that I was not meant to enjoy life. The fact that I was an IB Diploma kid probably didn’t help (massive workload + general disillusionment = profound sadness). My friends, and almost everyone around me, weren’t quite so angst-ridden. If they weren’t smiling through the pain, they were getting angry and going “screw it.” Meanwhile, I moped my way through paper after paper and wondered if there was any point to anything.

Added to my angsty nature was a hell-on-earth called IB Extended Math. I wasn’t the only kid to struggle in Extended Math, but I’m pretty sure I was one of the few to fail a test after spending a week studying for it. I wanted to yell “screw it,” stop studying, and just settle for whatever level of F I got. But my mom, quite honestly, wouldn’t let me, and my teacher refused to quit on me, so I was intentionally/unintentionally guilted into not giving up. Having to work really hard at something and never get any better at it is a fate I would wish on no one. My misery had reached the point that it didn’t even register as misery; it was just life. I wondered repeatedly what exactly you were supposed to do when hard work and determination didn’t pay off, but no one had an answer for me. In fact, if I actually asked that question the ask-ee tended to get annoyed.

Then my English teacher assigned The Catcher in the Rye. I had no idea what it was about, there was no summary on the back, and I didn’t look one up because regardless of the plot, I knew I would have to read it. Reading Holden’s story, I found something I thought I’d never find: a kindred spirit. So I wasn’t the only one who could feel lonely in a room full of people. Other people could sometimes, as terrible as it sounds, despise everything and everyone, too. Was it necessarily a good thing that Catcher managed to validate my moodiness? Probably not. Was it a good thing that it helped me to get through high school with my psyche intact? I say yes.

Somehow, when things were tough, when I felt like Sisyphus, I could just envision Holden going through it with me. Having read the book repeatedly, I could imagine exactly how Holden would feel in whatever situation I was in, and it was never far from what I was feeling. The Catcher in the Rye was one of the first books I read with a protag I completely understood, and who I thought would understand me if they were real. And at a time when I felt like no one could possibly get me, like no one could answer the question of what to do when your best wasn’t good enough, I really needed that.

Catcher did teach me something, though. It taught me that everyone, absolutely everyone, is a phony. I wasn’t alone in that either. None of us show our whole selves to everyone, not even to our families. If we did we wouldn’t have school personas and home personas and (in my case anyway) with-close-friends personas. So I won’t say Catcher in the Rye changed my life. It didn’t make me realize I wanted to be a writer or instill a new philosophy, it didn’t kindle my love of reading, it didn’t alter my worldview forever. But just as Peeta, that sexy little dandelion of a man, became a symbol of hope for Katniss, Catcher, in my junior year, was a source of companionship for me. It was there to metaphysically hold my hand through one of the most challenging experiences of my life. And sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.

Have you ever had a book get you through the hard times?

Post by dac213!

Topics: Books, Life
Tags: books, books we love, the catcher in the rye, literary characters, book recommendations, classics, holden caulfield, books week

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