Holden Caulfield: Timeless or Time or Meds?
J. D. Salinger’s Holden Caulfield has long been hailed as the timeless American teenager, but he has also always had his detractors. One such 15-year-old boy from Long Island said that when they read Catcher in the Rye, everyone in his class hated Holden and wanted to tell him “Shut up and take your Prozac” (www.nytimes.com). How can a character be so hated so much by the teenagers who are supposed to relate to him?? Holden struggles with issues that transcend time -- teenagers struggle with them regardless of the current trends and world issues. But what are these issues, and how do they lead to Holden Caulfield being hated or loved with such fiery passion?
Holden’s main issue is that he …show more content…
Another issue that Holden struggles with is depression. While Holden does not outright say that he is depressed, he still exhibits many of the signs. The most obvious sign, of course, is his suicidal thoughts. According to Mental Health America, between 30% and 70% of suicide victims suffer from depression. Since suicidal thoughts are a precursor to actual suicide, there is a clear correlation between the two. Multiple times throughout the novel he talks about killing himself, such as after Stradlater's date with Jane. As he lay in Ackley’s roommate's bed, he thought about Stradlater and Jane in the back of Ed Banky's car, and “felt like jumping out the window” because of it (Salinger 63). Again, Holden “felt like jumping out the window” after getting beat up by Maurice, and said that he would have done it if he knew someone would cover up his body afterwards because he “did not want a bunch of stupid rubbernecks looking at [him] while he was all gory” (Salinger 136). The only thing that stopped him from killing himself was his pride -- that is how close he was. Over and over again (even more times than were mentioned earlier) Holden talks about killing himself. These constant suicidal thoughts are not a sign of good mental health --they are a sign that he is depressed.
Another sign of Holden’s depression is his constant reckless behavior, which, according to a website called Help Guide, is another common symptom of depression. Just the
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Although Holden does not display the violent actions we are use to seeing of a psychopath, he still shares most of the passive traits of a psychopath. Tracey describes a psychopath as showing “Passive symptoms including depression, promiscuous sexual behaviors, lack of remorse or guilt, shallow emotions, lying pathology, etc.” (Tracey). In the book, Holden shows many of these symptoms and one of them in particular. That one would have to be depression.
In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the main character, Holden, cannot accept that he must move out of childhood and into adulthood. One of Holden’s most important major problems is his lack of maturity. Holden also has a negative perspective of life that makes things seem worse than they really are. In addition to Holden’s problems he is unable to accept the death of his brother at a young age. Holden’s immaturity, negative mentality, and inability to face reality hold him back from moving into adulthood.
Sleep disturbances are common in people suffering from depression. "I wasn't sleepy or anything, but I was feeling sort of lousy. Depressed and all. I almost wished I was dead". This shows Holden is overwhelmed by everything happening in his life, and although he should be tired having travelled
Teen depression is a serious mental health problem that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in activities. It affects how a teenager thinks, feels and behaves. It can cause emotional, functional and physical problems. Holden Caulfield lost his younger brother Allie to leukemia when Holden was thirteen years old. Following the death of Allie, Holden broke his hand punching the windows out of the garage of their summer home. Holden’s mindset reveals depression is the cause of his struggles. Depression was actively present in Holden’s behavior. The source of his depression was the death of his brother Allie. Holden was aware the entire time of his impending punishment.
A common symptom of depression is lack of concentration which Holden mentions multiple times throughout the novel (NAMI). “The trouble was, I couldn’t concentrate too hot - sometimes it’s hard to concentrate” (169). Another common symptom could be change in movement, referring to pacing, awkward movements, or in Holden’s case, running for no apparent reason. “I don’t even know what I was running for- I guess I just felt like it” (3). A more general view of Holden’s personality reveals that he is extremely pessimistic about life, which is a general checkbox under “depression”. Even though depression may seem likely for young Holden, there may be a more suitable option: PTSD. Symptoms of this mental disorder may include dissociation, which is a disconnection from reality, and avoidance, which could include physically or mentally avoiding the subject (NAMI). An example of dissociation from Holden comes from, once again, feeling like he’s going to disappear into the street, “Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street. I thought I’d just go down, down,down and nobody’d ever see me again” (204). Holden is definitely separated from reality as he is in his own world of illusions and fantasies. An example from avoidance, other than
In the scope of things, Holden’s actions to alienate himself perpetuated his depression and triggered his downward spiral and mental decline. There was a clear internal conflict between his need to protect himself from the pain others cause and, his intrinsic need for companionship. A self-destructive cycle was born out of this conflict. Holden would alienate himself for protection, this resulted in him feeling lonely and depressed, this resulted in his reaching out to others, the interactions lead him to believe that people are destructive which ultimately leads to him alienating
A large part of Holden’s depression stems from his hatred of the adult world that Holden believes is full of “phonies.” To Holden, phony people are not limited to purely “fake” people, but also people who act in a stereotypical way. For example, if a Catholic preached to him and asked him if he was a Catholic, they would be “phony” in his eyes, because they behaved in a way that is generally expected of them. However, this view that Holden holds is hypocritical of him, because he is constantly making generalizations and lying at impulse to almost everyone he meets just because he “feels like it” (Salinger 58). Holden cannot control his compulsive lying which shows that his control over his primal instincts is restricted which is likely a
He is not intensely preoccupied with academic achievement like many more modern teenagers, having failed out of several prestigious preparatory schools, but he is clearly intelligent and tends to dwell on“heavy” topics like death and loss of innocence. His cynicism and sensitivity, in addition to the trauma he experiences from losing his brother Allie, suggest that he has depression or another untreated mental illness, an interpretation which is common among readers and supported by Holden’s visit with a psychotherapist at the end of the novel. Despite the risks he faces through having an untreated mental illness, shown when he is warned that he is “riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall” through self-destructive behavior, the conformist culture and social niceties of the 1950s prevented him from being able to discuss his thoughts for a large portion of the novel. (186) This culture, specifically the “phony” prep schools, is clearly toxic for Holden and likely contributed heavily towards his negative mental state, and therefore the negative image he often has of
Holden seems to struggle with depression. In many places throughout the novel, Holden describes to us his deep sadness. A lot of times his depression is unpredictable and triggered by tense situations. In one situation while he was explaining his feelings about the Elkton Hills headmaster’s phony and rather boring conversations with well-built and
Teenagers such as Holden who have thought of suicide do not desire to die but they want to escape from the problems in their life that at that particular moment the impression of dying was the only way out. Holden often lies to himself to ease the emptiness and guilt he is living with that even Holden himself tells us that he “really felt like, committing suicide” (104). Even if we did not have the evidence that Holden was depressed through his actions of lying and having suicidal thoughts we still have the profound statement of all. What other way to prove that Holden Caulfield is depressed then Holden himself announcing that life itself “makes (him) so depressed” (75). Every single page of the novel is gorged with Holden telling us he is depressed. Whether it was Holden remembering someone say please and Holden commenting “that’s depressing” (211) or Holden warning us to never sleep in Grand Central, because “it’ll depress you,” (194) it is obvious that Holden is suffering from a mental illness.
Holden recognizes and perceives to be alienated from the adult world thus causing himself to believe he is depressed. Holden believes he is depressed from viewing the adult world and thinking that it is phony. He believes that the world is phony, superficial, hypocritical, and shallow. He views this world everyday and realizes that one day he will have to step into it, but every time he thinks about the world surrounding him it causes him to become depressed. Holden becomes depressed because he desires to remain a child were innocence is preserved and not drastically taken away. In Holden?s scenario, he feels that his innocence was taken away by witnessing the suicide of his close friend and the death of dear brother. Holden sees the world that he has to become a part of and desires more to not be a part of it. This hatred of stepping into the adult world causes Holden believe he is depressed and
Throughout the novel, Holden is battling serious depression. As the novel goes on, his depression continues to worsen. It gets to the point where he says “What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window” (Salinger 117), proving that the extent of Holden’s depression is extreme just like many adolescents in today's world. According to the Jason Foundation, “Each day in our nation, there are an average of over 3,470 attempts by young people grades 9-12” (Youth).
Holden Caulfield plays a timeless character in the sense that his way of life is common for the American teenager, in his time as well as now. Today parents dread the terrible and confusing adolescent years of their child's life. In J.D. Salinger's book, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden is in this terrible and confusing point of his life. At this point in his life, as well as in modern teenager's lives, a transition occurs, from child to adult. Holden takes this change particularly rough and develops a typical mentality that prevents him from allowing himself to see or understand his purpose in life.
Salinger's depiction of Holden Caulfield is considered one of the most convincing portrayals of an adolescent in literature. Intelligent, sensitive, and imaginative, Holden desires acceptance into the adult world even though he is sickened and obsessed by what he regards as its "phonies," including his teachers, parents, and his older