As J. D. Salinger's protagonist in The Catcher in the Rye, 17 year old Holden Caulfield is an example of contemporary society's willingness to accept a non-traditional hero. Holden strives to build a value system he can call his own. Confident in his beliefs he ends up in opposition to the views of his privileged peers, thus alienating himself from them. In his adolescent quest for truth he does not succeed in achieving this goal, but is successful in gaining an understanding of the importance of relationships. Holden's success lies in his acceptance of his failure. As a non-traditional hero, Holden, not society, benefits and provides adolescents with a lesson to be learned.
Holden is a typical teenager trying to find out who he is by creating a foundation for an identity. He believes his foundation consists of a system of values meaningful to him and beneficial to others. Honesty is of great importance to Holden, yet he chronically lies without purpose. He views learning as having great worth, but he performs poorly academically. Although he relishes the innocence of childhood, he struggles to conform to the adult world. While he frowns upon phoniness, he is hypocritical to all in which he believes. It is the conflict between his moral standards and those of his peers, as well as the conflict within himself, which causes the collapse of his world. Alienating himself from others gives him no support system to help him through the difficult times. Rather than evolve from child to adult Holden allows his problems to overcome him and has a nervous breakdown.
Not until Holden reflects on his past experiences does he become a hero, albeit a non-traditional one. After failing to function effectively within society he can looks back

and begins to see where he went wrong. Ironically, by isolating himself from society, he sealed his fate. Now he realizes the importance of working with society as he searches for his identity. He must learn that going from childhood to adulthood requires skill in the art of compromise. Adolescents going through this same turmoil in search of their identities, not only can relate to Holden's struggle, but also can benefit from his mistakes. The fact that he failed makes him a hero in that after failing he succeeds to begin to find what he wants. No traditional hero fails. Holden fails; yet, it is his heroic qualities that allow him to move forward.