Holden Caulfield killed John Lennon


Mark David Chapman, the young assassin, was carrying two things with him when he shot and killed John Lennon on the steps of the Dakota apartments in Manhattan: a pistol and a paperback copy of The Catcher in the Rye. The function of the pistol was obvious. Less obvious was the function of J. D. Salin­ger’s novel. Yet the book, it seems fair to say, must have had some special significance to Mark Chapman. Any attempt to uncover its significance is, in the nature of the case, highly speculative. Yet some aspects of The Catcher in the Rye, set beside Mark Chap­man’s murder of John Lennon, seems so sug­gestive that not to speculate upon the connec­tions between the two seems a temptation impossible to forgo. J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye was published in 1951. Like the Beatles, whose rise to fame came about roughly thirteen years later, the novel’s adolescent hero, Holden Caulfield, became a spokesman for a genera­tion of rebellious, supposedly much-misun­derstood youth. An oversimplified yet func­tional reading of the Salinger novel might conclude that all that the book advocates would fall under the heading of “innocence” and all that it condemns falls under that of “phoniness.” Holden Caulfield, during his somewhat aimless ramble through New York, feels overwhelmed by the phoniness he finds all around him. He struggles to preserve his own tenuous hold on youthful innocence–or, as he sometimes puts it, “niceness”–and de­spairs when he finds that innocence lost or threatened in the young people around him.

more from Daniel Stashower at The American Scholar here.