Authors have a way with words that can make a reader fall in love with a serial killer, or hate a saint. Writers use an array of literary techniques to make readers admire amoral characters such as Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D Salinger. Insight into the character's mind through silliloquies or personal thoughts, making the character relatable, and a good theme, can all make the reader sympathetic or admire the the depraved character.
Holden Caulfield participated in underage drinking, fornication, he fought, he lied, he flunked out of school, and he called people degrading names, yet he is one of the most beloved characters in American literature. But the author gives us insight into Holden's mind, the way he thinks, and the way he grew up, which offers Holden a chance to explain his actions and help the reader understand why he does the things he does. John Steinbeck said, "In every bit of honest writing in the world there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. Try to understand each other." When a reader can understand the character it becomes hard to dislike him, there's nothing but compassion and sympathy. The author produces this level of emotion in the reader through characterization, J.D Salinger has Holden be completely honest with the audience about his thoughts and feelings.
Because he is so blunt about his feelings Holden Caulfield is loved around the world by anyone who has experienced their teenage years, his rebellion and his angst are all relatable which allows readers to sympathize even further with him. Throughout the story Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized everyone surrounding him. As he says he feels trapped on “the other side” of life, and he tries to find his way in a world in which he feels he doesn’t belong.
But perhaps the fact that the story is only being told from Holden's point of view is the biggest reason he becomes admirable. Holden portrays his actions the way he wants them to be portrayed, and from his perspective his actions are acceptable, making the reader feel the same way. If Holden see's his actions as admirable, that's how they will come off to the reader.
The theme is another major role player in how an audience views a character. If the overall theme of the book is glorified or valued then the unethical character "doesn't seem so bad after all." If the character represents something good, then his actions and personality can also be seen as good. One of the themes of The Catcher in the Rye is the hardships of growing up. It's a theme anyone the world over can understand and relate to by being put into the shoes of someone experiencing it and seeing the world through their eyes it becomes easy for the audience to identify with and approve of the character.