The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Holden Caulfield

Holden is by far the most complex character in the book (arguable the only complex character). He serves three major purposes in the novel. Firstly, he stands as a critic of society, taking a stance against phoniness, hypocrisy, obscenity, and passiveness. Secondly, he is an adolescent, caught between the worlds of childhood and adulthood. In this position, he demonstrates the need for maturity as well as the need for honesty and integrity.

With relation to the plot of the novel, Holden stands as a sort of anti-hero. He makes no large contributions to society, slays no dragons, and achieves no tangible goals. Instead, Holden can be seen as an existentialist hero. He gives himself the impossible task of fighting society's phoniness, and in the end commits to that task wholeheartedly.