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The Most Divisive Characters in Literary History

This week, we read an article which sought to answer one of life’s most troubling questions: “Is Holden Caulfield Obnoxious?” Though the Flavorpill office is largely split on this point, your humble author has been squarely in the “yes” camp since she picked up the book at age 13 and put it down ten pages later, brushing off Holden as a pretentious jerk unworthy of her attention. However, I have to admit that this article swayed my feelings a little bit — quite a feat, with such an old grudge on the table.

Regardless, Holden Caulfield remains one of the most controversial literary characters of all time — some love him, some hate him, and some love to hate him. There may even be some people out there who hate to love him. However, Holden’s sheer divisiveness is one of the things that makes him such an interesting character and cultural icon, so we started thinking about a few more of the literary characters we’re destined to keep fighting over for years to come. Click through to read our list, and make sure to let us know which side you weigh in on for each figure in the comments — or, if we’ve missed your favorite controversy, feel free to go on a rant below.

Holden Caulfield

As Austin Allen points out in his aforementioned article, everyone has an opinion on Holden Caulfield. As he puts it, “Either you found him a kindred spirit in your youth and continue to sympathize with him — less blindly, more wistfully — as you age; or else you found him a whiner then and you find him a whiner now.” And according to a 2009 New York Times piece, modern teenagers may fall more and more into the latter camp: “what once seemed like courageous truth-telling now strikes many of them as ‘weird,’ ‘whiny’ and ‘immature.’” This may have something to do with the now-dated language, or maybe our reality TV-saturated kids have less time for admonitions of phoniness. Then again, maybe they should listen up.

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