- Alternative Character Interpretation:
- Holden is either a shining beacon of morality amongst all that was wrong with the 1950s, or a whiny prototype Emo Kid (and a rather hypocritical one at that) who refuses to let himself see anything good in the world, or someone who has good insights and potential but is weighed down by cynicism and bitterness, OR just one of the first examples of teenage disillusionment in a post-World War II world. Or you think he's telling you to kill pop-culture icons (see Misaimed Fandom below). It really depends on the reader.
- Holden's line about how he has suffered like twenty times in his life the situation that makes him run away from Antolini's house (namely, that Antolini strokes creepily his head while he's sleeping). In a bit of Fridge Horror, this comment and his subsequent reaction might mean Holden has suffered frequent sexual abuse even if he does not acknowledge it as such. His recollection about how his schoolmate James Castle comitted suicide after being attacked in a room in a way that Holden uncharacteristically refuses to disclose (he only describes it as "repulsive") only adds to the interpretation.
- Genre Turning Point: At the time there was no such thing as "young adult" literature, and the book was simply marketed as being for adults. But Holden's characterization really struck a chord with readers his own age who bought the book in droves, causing the industry to start realizing there could be a profitable market in books targeted specifically at that age group.
- Hard-to-Adapt Work: Being very monologue-centric, along with the fact its author J. D. Salinger forbids it, is why there have been no screen adaptations of The Catcher in the Rye... Although he did suggest that he wasn't opposed to the idea of a film being made after his death, according to his letters.
- Hype Backlash: Considering its reputation as both one of the most controversial and most loved books in history, it has lead to quite a few people being a little underwhelmed when they read it the first time.
- Jerkass Woobie: Holden is a pretty bitter character who goes on about the "phoniness" of society but it's clear that his past has left some lasting trauma on him. Even worse, depending on how you interpret some of his lines, he might be even a sexual abuse victim.
- Memetic Mutation: Holden Caulfield thinks you're a phony. It's on t-shirts. Just Holden's usage of "phony" all the time is memetic.
- Misaimed Fandom: In general, many readers identify with Holden to the point of seeing his misanthropic worldview as something to emulate and even idolize as an appropriate reaction to the world around him, missing the point of the story that his scorn and loathing mask a deep unhappiness. Tragically, a few people who missed the point of this work often go on to commit violent acts because of it.
- John Lennon's murderer Mark David Chapman loved this book and claimed to use it as an inspiration for committing the murder. Whilst this certainly helped the already considerable controversy surrounding the book, it also meant that many later readers approached the work expecting it to be more brutal, violent, and dark than it necessarily is.
- John Hinckley, Jr., who tried to kill Ronald Reagan, had a copy in his hotel room. He's been reported to be obsessed with it, but that might just be in confusion with Mark Chapman.
- Robert John Bardo, who shot and killed actress Rebecca Schaeffer, was also carrying a copy of the novel when he committed the murder, and threw it on a rooftop as he fled. However, he insists that this was a coincidence, and that he was not trying to emulate Chapman.
- More recently, Seung-Hui Cho, the shooter in the Virginia Tech Massacre, sent videos to news agencies in between the two bouts of murdering. One of these videos included a rant of how he related to The Catcher in the Rye.
- It got to the point that the Mel Gibson blockbuster Conspiracy Theory made it a plot point that government-trained assassins were brainwashed into buying copies of The Catcher in the Rye as a tracking method. It's become that ubiquitous.
- Overshadowed by Controversy: Whenever the novel is brought up, oftentimes it's less for its actual content and more for its association with a number of shootings, such as the assassination of John Lennon, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, and the killing of Rebecca Schaeffer. Note that at no point in the book is such violence ever actually advocated, and analysts agree that the book has had a more positive impact on society than a negative one.
- "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny:
- The book is uncontroversial by today's standards and developed an undeserved reputation as a dark and controversial book. Its current 'tame' status was referenced in the South Park episode "The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs", where the boys, disappointed by the book's content, try to write the most disgusting story imaginable.
- In The '50s, Holden Caulfield probably was a great character, just for being so different from other literary protagonists of the time. Today...not so much. Considering that so many characters are like him nowadays, he can sometimes come off as the Ur-Example of a Jerkass Stu. This was referenced in the Family Guy episode "Family Guy S 3 E 8 The Kiss Seen A Round The World," which featured a one-shot character based on Holden's likeness shouting "big fat phony" as a Running Gag.
- Signature Line: The very last lines of the book: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."
- Signature Scene: Phoebe riding on the carousel in the last chapter of the book. The scene has the most fan art out of every other scene in the book and nearly every Catcher in the Rye book has the scene as its cover picture (like the one on the Main page).
- Tear Jerker:
- Virtually every interaction Holden has with Phoebe. She's concerned about her brother because he keeps hurting himself and she's genuinely concerned for his well-being. When she receives his note, she drops everything because she's so scared of losing her brother and it's ultimately what drives Holden to get his shit together. Mind you, she's only ten and Holden leaving wouldn't be the first time she's lost a brother.
- Holden talking about his younger brother, then abruptly stating that he died of leukemia. He then says, "You would have liked him."
- Holden's recollection about James Castle, a boy in his school who committed suicide by jumping out of a window because of bullying (or possibly something even worse) - while wearing a sweater he borrowed from Holden.Holden: I heard everybody running through the corridor and down the stairs, so I put on my bathrobe and I ran downstairs too, and there was old James Castle laying right on the stone steps and all. He was dead, and his teeth, and blood, were all over the place and nobody would even go near him. He had on this turtleneck sweater I'd lent him.
- Values Dissonance: Though innocent, Holden's Friend to All Children attitude would probably get him into a lot of trouble these days. Giving two boys a tour of a museum or offering to take an unattended girl for a hot chocolate would get him Mistaken for Pedophile.
- Wangst: The nonstop swearing and pessimistic, holier-than-thou type of attitude that the narrator had (due to everyone being a "phony") made the book completely unbearable for some.
YMMV / The Catcher in the Rye