Holden Caulfield Mixtape

For the final project for Catcher in the Rye, I decided to do a mixtape that represents Holden Caulfield’s journey throughout Catcher in the Rye. You can find that mixtape on the prezi here, and I will upload an 8tracks or spotify later on. The following is my reflection piece I wrote after completing the project.

The project I chose for my creative extension project was the mixtape for Holden Caulfield. I ultimately decided to do this project because I thought it would be the most fun for me, and I definitely didn’t want to get stuck doing a project I hate. I love listening to music and especially interpreting its meanings and how it relates to other things in life, so I thought this project would be perfect for me. I began with compiling a list of songs I thought of off the top of my head that had themes like depression, hopelessness, and death, which were all major themes in the book. The rest of my time was spent listening to my iTunes library and looking up online lists of angsty songs because, of course, Holden would definitely relate to angst.

Overall, I am quite happy with how it turned out in the end. I like that I pushed myself outside of the normal range of music that I listened to, and definitely looked hard for the underlying themes and meanings to the songs and made sure each and every song related to Holden somehow, which I liked a lot. I also liked how I chose songs to represent where he was at different points in the book- instead of just having songs about depression, I decided to include optimistic songs to represent the journey he’s about to go through to show Holden as a multifaceted character instead of just some angsty teen. At certain points, however, finding a song got a bit slow and it was hard to find a song that related to him perfectly, so it was a bit of a stretch to find how it related but it worked out in the end.

As for the design specs, I believe I met the requirements. Unfortunately, as it was a presentation, I can only make it so “beautiful,” but I do think it is unique as my songs varied from the other songs people in my class chose (surprisingly, we all had completely different songs) and hopefully once you listen to the songs it will become “poignant.” I did put a lot of effort into choosing the songs and writing the analysis so hopefully the design specs are met.

“What would you like to spend more time on in school?” I hope that there are more opportunities to do projects like these at school. This helped me analyze Catcher much more than an analytical, 4 page essay ever could. It forced me to find deeper meaning and symbolism of the book and then relate it back to lyrics of songs I had to find myself. And I was able to do all of that without the pain of writing an essay, which just makes me hate the book in the end. So, for these reasons, I hope we get more opportunities to do these creative extension projects.


Get a Life, Holden Caulfield!: Response


My response to Jennifer Schuessler’s article in the New York Times titled “Get A Life, Holden Caulfield.” This response details that while Holden’s exact experiences are perhaps no longer common, the underlying message will always hold relevance– all while writing (or trying to, at least) in Holden Caulfield’s skaz. 

If you really want to hear about it, this article is the phoniest thing I’ve ever read. It really is. Who is Jennifer Schuessler, anyways? Probably some Ivy League snob. No kidding, this woman goes on and on about how the “weird, whiny, and immature” Holden just needs to pop some pills and keep it quiet. Even worse, it’s backed up by just some lousy testimony you’d find in a ShamWow commercial. I mean, listen:

“Holden Caulfield is supposed to be this paradigmatic teenager we can all relate to, but we don’t really speak this way or talk about these things… I had a lot of students comment, ‘I can’t really feel bad for this rich kid with a weekend free in New York City.’”

Anyway, I guess what they’re trying to say is that Holden just doesn’t appeal to kids because their life, fifty years later, isn’t really the same as his and all.


You won’t forget it!

She goes on to say that young people are too obsessed with “their compulsive text messaging and hyperactive pop culture metabolism…” Phones! It really kills me that adults think we grow up differently just because we’re growing up with some lousy iPhones. I mean, that’s not all I ever do. Now, this may come as a shock to you, so brace yourself. Different generations have… get this… different experiences. Society is like a goddam suitcase, that’s what it is. A suitcase where every shirt that doesn’t fit in gets thrown away and can’t go on vacation. Does that sound fun to you? It doesn’t to me, that’s for sure. Since when was growing up strictly for the birds?


Stop saying this is the only teenage culture.

Old Mr. Dickstein, who teaches at some phony school or another, says:

“I wouldn’t say we have a more gullible youth culture, but it may be more of a joining or togetherness culture.”

Togetherness. Now that’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I mean, it just depressed me. There’s nothing more depressing about goddam phony adults thinking they know the up and up about current teenage cultures. Adults!  I do suppose this article was written in 2009, but if you pull up this funny website called google.com and type in “news,” you might come to find that we don’t have a togetherness culture.  So who knows what Old Mr. Dickstein is going on about.


We are not all in this together, unfortunately.

If anything, Holden’s struggle is more relatable now than when it was published. Back then, teenagers were expected to be adults. Now there are teenagers, but they’re still too “childish” to develop their own identity. Because, like I was saying, how can you really “find yourself” or even define yourself when you’re fifteen and crap. No, you gotta wait till you’re about to croak because society thinks that’s when you’re the wisest. That really depressed me.

“Perhaps Holden would not have felt quite so alone if he were growing up today… These days, adults may lament the slasher movies and dumb sex comedies that have taken over the multiplex, but back then teenagers found themselves stranded between adult things and childish pleasures.”

Boy, this really killed me. She’s implying that before, there was no teenage culture, but now there is, and Holden would love that. Then she quotes old Stephanie Savage, saying that in Holden’s world, “you can either go to the carousel in Central Park, or you can choose the Wicker Bar. You can have a skating date, or you can have a prostitute come up to your hotel room.” For Chrissake, do we really have to be hiring a prostitute to relate to Holden? That killed me. It really did. Sure, Holden’s rich and annoying, but we don’t have to be living the same lousy life to relate to him.


We don’t have time for anything. Too busy doing schoolwork. Like I’m doing now. 

Now, if you want to know the truth, Holden would not love this teenage culture. He really wouldn’t. I mean, the main problem with developing teenage culture is that it’s constantly suppressed and commercialized in these goddam “slasher movies and sex comedies.” You think a zit-faced hormonal teen who is struggling to keep their grades above a C really relates to sex comedies? You think a kid who can barely pass gym class is “enchanted by wide-eyed, quidditch-playing Harry Potter of Hogwarts”? Boy, let me tell you, they sure aren’t. Now, I don’t know about the author of the article, but if you want to know the truth, if I was expected to have perfect skin AND save the world like teenagers today are expected to do, à la Harry Potter, I would have a pretty tough time growing up.


If there’s anything more phony, it’s a scrawny 16 year old girl being played by a 26 year old woman with eurocentric features, clear skin, and a flawless figure.

Nowadays, it’s this exact teenage culture that does the alienation. And that depresses me even more. Because now, even if there is a distinguished identity, but it’s not your own, it’s society’s. Strictly phony. 

So that’s my response. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I do suppose I don’t know anyone whose typical Sunday entails getting drunk as hell and hiring a prostitute in New York City. But, for Chrissake, as long as time moves in a linear fashion and kids become teens and teens become adults, Holden Caulfield is and will always remain relevant.

Catcher in the Rye: Chapters 13-26 (Final Thoughts)

Holden has finally finished telling us all the madman stuff that happened to him, his wild journey from start to finish. He is still the same cynical narrator from the beginning, and honestly, I’m glad for that. To see him do a complete 180 would be, um… phony.

You finally get to see what the meaning of the title is: when Holden goes to buy Phoebe a record, he hears a little kid sing “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” He then goes on to say (pg 173):

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be.”


All Holden really wants to be is this “catcher in the rye.” He wishes to take all the children away from the corruptions of society and establish a “Neverland” utopia. Holden, for one, has no childish innocence left, or at least he think he doesn’t. He was so traumatized by the death of his brother Allie that it left a weight on him that follows his consciousness around everywhere he goes. He’s short tempered and probably not that fun to be around. Not to mention, his constant cursing, fighting, drinking, and obsession with sexuality is proof that Holden has lost his childhood innocence, and I don’t doubt that he wants it back. The worst thing about childhood is growing up, and when kids like Holden have experienced trauma so early in their life, they have no choice but to grow up to deal with what has happened. And this, no doubt, leaves a mark on the child for the rest of their life. I’ll come back to this later on.


Far more concerning than his obsession with sex is his obsession with death (I don’t have to spell it out for you to know that this is quite weird for a 17 year old boy). He constantly mentions being terribly lonely and wanting nothing else in that moment but to die. Holden has already lived through his roommate committing suicide and his baby brother, Allie, dying of leukemia. Relating back to what I mentioned earlier, Holden is introduced to the concept of mortality very early on. Is he afraid of death himself? Is he afraid of others dying? Part of this “mortality” theme is how Holden has built up all these walls around him to protect himself from the horrors of losing someone. The book ends on these lines (pg 214):

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

Holden just doesn’t want to get close to anybody, after he already feels betrayed by the ones he loved dying. That’s part of the reason he calls everyone and everything “phony”- it’s a defense mechanism. He calls people fake and pushes them away so he doesn’t have to get attached to them.  Take, for example, him hiring a prostitute taking precedence over his profound love for Jane, who we never actually see in the book. Not to mention his relationship with his sister, Phoebe. When she’s not around, you hear Holden gush on and on about how amazing she is, but near the end of the book when they’re actually together, (despite Phoebe being “glad as hell to see [Holden]”), he hides any feelings or excitement he might be experiencing. To me, this is a dangerous tactic– one can play this cat-and-mouse game for so long, and when you actually lose them, you have to live with that person never knowing how much you loved them. By putting up all these walls, he is certainly setting himself up for disaster later on.


He has some obvious hate for the society that raised him like this. The 1950s was considered the epitome of the “perfect family,” the kind you’d find all happy and smiling on a billboard. Again, going back to the idea of Holden just wanting to be a “catcher in the rye,” he wanted to save children like him, or “catch” them, before they fall into the abyss of disillusionment and danger. Holden himself had nothing to catch when he was spiraling into depression– there was no family (that was there for him, anyways), religion, friends, school, nothing. So he just fell. How are you supposed to give into this post WW2 commercialization and idealistic “perfect family” when you know how society has essentially failed you? How are you supposed to appreciate something that doesn’t appreciate you back? Holden’s frustration comes out in both pure rage and suicidal tendencies.


There is one unlikely place that I believe probably saved him from the brink a few times, and those are the ducks. Ah, the essential question, where do ducks go when the pond freezes over? They keep coming back every time, most importantly when he has his big breakdown. In this scene (pg 153), he goes to the pond to check “what the hell the ducks were doing, to see if they were around or not.” He doesn’t find them, so he thinks about suicide instead. Holden doesn’t know how or why the ducks leave during the winter and how they come back, but he knows that they always do. So he holds on to the fact that if the ducks can keep coming back after their toughest times means that Holden can, too.


Overall Review: ★★★★★★☆☆☆☆

Catcher in the Rye: Chapters 10-12

{click here for my last post on Catcher!}

Holden Caulfield, A Really Bad Guide On How To Stop Being Lonely: Step one, pick up as many girls as you can. Disclaimer: this might not help anything (at all), but hey, you picked up some girls. This is part of what really frustrates me about Holden. There is no possible way you can incessantly complain about everything yet do nothing about it. Or do things that’ll just make it worse. Like, if you’re hungry, and you eat 3 packets of gummy bears, you’ll still be hungry, and you just ruined your diet. Congrats, you achieved nothing! Holden is constantly trying to patch up his mistakes and issues by immediately reverting his behavior to another bad mistake. It’s the circle of life, apparently. My question about this, however, is: is Holden’s sex-obsession and need to be with multiple women part of the cause of his issues, or more part of the “symptoms”? Perhaps this is a viable solution in his mind to being lonely.


One a more optimistic note, one think I really enjoyed about these chapters is Holden gushing about his younger sister, Phoebe. We spent the whole book so far with him lying and being rude to people, and seeing Holden really open up about someone he truly loves, not just some girl he meet on the street, made him so much more interesting. He isn’t just some stone cold pile of angst, but he deeply cares for and admires his kid sister. Their relationship seems really sweet and I’m sure that Holden is really attached to her, especially after Allie died. Hopefully I’m not the only one realizing that this is one of Holden’s positive relationships he can latch onto and help pull him out of depression, so maybe Holden will eventually realize this, too.

Catcher in the Rye: Chapters 7-9

{click here for my last post on Catcher!}

As soon as I began to read these chapters, I wondered “why is Holden Caulfield so fake?” Well… that’s because he is. Holden has put on this bad boy, smoking, cursing, nonchalant, sex-obsessed, “you’re all phonies!” persona like a muffler over his real self. It’s obvious that Holden is struggling with trauma or depression or the like, but he constantly represses it until it actually becomes difficult to read. I know pretty much all teenagers don’t want to expose themselves around everyone they know, but at least they have friends to confide in. Holden is so, so lonely that this just eats him up from the inside until he can’t take it. He doesn’t want to be fake, and he doesn’t want to get close to people in fear they’ll abandon him. This dude has some serious issues.


Every two pages Holden says he feels “so lonesome and rotten.” Then immediately after, he asks about joining a monastery. Because that will certainly help with his loneliness. For the amount of issues Holden has, you’d think he’d try to do something about it. Anything. You’d even think his incessant flirting with women would make him feel better, but that, too, leads up to… nothing.

On page 52, Holden mentions that he’s packing the skates his mother bought him just a few days ago: “That depressed me. I could see my mother going into Spalding’s and asking the salesman a million dopy (sic) questions- and here I was getting the ax again… Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.”

Now, people don’t just get kicked out of prep schools again and again for no reason, so why is it happening to Holden? He’s not too proud of himself, that’s for sure. You can tell in these chapters, while he’s wandering throughout the streets of NYC, that he’s pretty depressed. And in the quote above, it seems that he doesn’t believe he’s good enough to receive presents, and it even makes him feel guilty. People take time to do something nice for him, and here he is  failing them again (i.e., getting kicked out of another school), so the main question in Holden’s mind at this point seems to be: What’s the point anymore?

Catcher in the Rye Chapters 2-6

{click here for my last post on Catcher!}

In these chapters of Catcher in the Rye, Holden goes to his teacher, Mr. Spencer’s, house, annoys him, and then manages to annoy all two (2) of his friends. Holden is like a pot that you’re watching boil over, and when it hits the cement, you think it’ll stop, but it just boils right through that cement and down to the ground.

Holden has an obvious obsession with calling everything “phony.” Exhibit A: “He was at least a pretty friendly guy, Stradlater. It was partly a phony kind of friendly, but at least he always said hello to Ackley and all” (pg. 34). Everything Holden thinks is fake or superficial in the slightest is automatically branded as phony. The more I read, the more it seems like a sort of defense mechanism for him. God forbid he would confuse something with kindness and get close to said person, so he might as well call it phony. The best thing I can equate it to is if you, say, have this internalized hatred for the “popular kids” at school so you don’t cry when they don’t invite you to their Halloween party. This makes Holden much more in depth and provides a lot more insight as to who he is.


Relating to this, Holden talking about the death of his brother Allie really opened up a certain vulnerability of his and made him seem a lot more human. I hope this story is further explored because it didn’t want me to stick Holden to a ceiling fan for once. Perhaps this is an explanation for why he’s so touchy and easily angered/irritated. And going back to the “phony” thing: he obviously got close to Allie, just to watch him die. He probably doesn’t want to form any close relationships again in case he gets “cheated.” Holden definitely seems to have a lot of trauma in his past which he never learned how to control.


You can see this come out when Holden has a fit of rage at Stradlater, his roommate. He was mad to begin with, and everything just goes downhill from there. He rips up his essay about Allie’s mitt, gets mad when he finds that Stradlater is really nonchalant about dating Jane, then gets more and more angered at every small mannerism until he finally socks Stradlater in the face. Does he even know why he did it? He admits “feeling funny,” and not remembering what happened. Holden has some deep-rooted issues which makes him an interesting narrator to follow the story with.