The Gettysburg Address as Given by Holden Caulfield


I wrote this speech on October 27, 2004 for my Advanced Placement United States history class. It’s how I imagined the “Gettysburg Address” woud’ve sounded if Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye were delivering it.

A long time ago, when I wasn’t born yet, our nation was created. I think it was in 1776. I could be wrong. I was never really good in history and all. There was this one time when Mr. Spencer was my history teacher, and I had to write an essay on the Egyptians. Boy, you should have seen how bad my essay was. I even wrote to Mr. Spencer at the end of the essay that it was fine if he wanted to flunk me. But he just invites me over to his house and tells me he’s worried and asks me about what I’m planning to do later in my life. That talk got me thinking. It really did.

Anyway, I think our country was founded in 1776. I’m not good with dates and all, but I know that America was meant to be based on liberty and equality. But the founding fathers never gave liberty and equality to the slaves. You’ve probably heard about this. I don’t see how giving equality to the whites and not giving it to the blacks is fair. What a bunch of phonies.

All of a sudden, we’re in this goddam civil war. I think this big war will decide whether our nation can go on keeping the standards of liberty and equality. If our side loses, the South will never be united with the North. It’ll mean that our big effort at creating such a great state with liberty and equality will fail. And it was them in the South who started the war by leaving and firing on Fort Sumter. What a bunch of princes. And that Jefferson Davis and Robert Lee are the biggest morons you ever saw because they’re at the head of it all.

So, after this huge Gettysburg battle, I think we should use this area as a cemetery for all the soldiers who died here. The people who died here deserve this place. What really knocks me out is that many of the people went on charges knowing they’d get shot. But they still charged the enemy and gave up their lives, hoping that they could keep our nation united. This is why we should give them a resting place. There was this one time, when I was at one of those private schools filled with some of the biggest morons you ever saw. The school was Pencey Prep. There was this one kid called Ackley. One day he got into a fight with those princes and ended up jumping out the window and getting killed. I felt bad for him. I really did. I don’t even know where he’s resting today.

Anyway, we can’t memorialize this cemetery more than those soldiers already have. These soldiers’ noble actions will always honor their graves and all. I wish that I can pay just as much tribute to this cemetery as these dead men have. But I’ll probably never come close to them. If everybody forgets what I’m saying here right now, they won’t forget what these brave men did here. They really won’t.

So, after all that our men gave up here, we should try to finish what they started. These soldiers were people who didn’t chuck the crap around, and they did what they knew they had to. They weren’t phonies who said one thing and then, before you know it, did another.  My brother’s name is D.B. You’ve probably heard of him. He was a much better writer than me, but he wasn’t like these fighters. Boy, you wouldn’t believe it, but he went to Hollywood and just sold himself away to the movies. He was a phony. Anyway, we should keep fighting this war and win it in order to complete the mission these men died for.

I had a little brother, too. You’ve probably heard of him. His name was Allie. He was my favorite, but he died of leukemia when he was very young. His death killed me. It really did. His death wasn’t vain. He taught me to stay genuine and true to myself, to not be a phony. I hope that these soldiers did not die here for nothing. At least they meant for us to continue our nation and not let it fragment and all. With our determination we can keep not just this democratic government but all the other ones working. At the beginning of the war, I really didn’t think all the lives were worth it. But then I saw what was at stake. And I became devoted to winning this. I really did. These soldiers fought for a rebirth and re-emergence of our nation as one that is united. What really knocks me out is that not only was their mission to reinvigorate our country and give it a new beginning as a unified nation, but that it was also to give more liberty and equality to our people. If we win, the small portion of freedom that we started with will widen and grow to include not just whites but also blacks. These soldiers were men who when you’re done reading about their heroic actions, you wish that you could just call them up and ask them about what they felt and what motivated them to fight. They weren’t phonies. They really weren’t.