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We have to consider it in the context of the era in which this book was released. We had just defeated two evil empires, and our soldiers were coming Home Sweet Home to their happy-to-be-housewives and their 2. Today being a free spirit and expressing your individuality is celebrated and encouraged. In those days you were expected to as I was told "Do as I say, not as I do.
And here we have 1 a main character who curses constantly, and unashamedly rejects the values of his parents and society in general and 2 a narrative style that is casual and conversational.
These two factors were shocking and dismaying to some, refreshing and delightful to others. And so Holden became a hero to some. Not in the conventional sense of the word, but because people related to him and they sympathized with the way he felt. He personified all that was wrong with society.
Holden is not intended to be a hero in the conventional sense of the word. He is a tragic victim of the crappy world in which he has no control and where no one understands him. I imagine that in , when this was published, there were those who said "Yes! This book was just one sign of the impending cultural revolution. Think of it as a brick in the foundation of the revolution to come.
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