“The Catcher in the Rye,” published in 1951, is still a staple of the high school curriculum, beloved by many teachers who read and reread it in their own youth. The trouble is today’s teenagers. Teachers say young readers just don’t like Holden as much as they used to. What once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as “weird,” “whiny” and “immature.”
Julie Johnson, who taught Mr. Salinger’s novel over three decades at New Trier High School in Winnetka, Ill., cited similar reactions. “Holden’s passivity is especially galling and perplexing to many present-day students,” she wrote in an e-mail message. “In general, they do not have much sympathy for alienated antiheroes; they are more focused on distinguishing themselves in society as it is presently constituted than in trying to change it.”
Amen, today’s teenagers. I didn’t identify with Caufield when I read the book, even though I felt desperately as if I was supposed to. I just wanted to punch him.