Analyzing Holden Caulfield's Depression. The Catcher in the Rye Essay Example

In the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”, by J.D. Salinger, The main protagonist Holden, illustrates his depression by words, actions, and conflicts. These are long lasting bitterness, grieving becomes physical, and emotional, and difficulty accepting that a loved one is gone. These are just some of the symptoms of depression that Holden illustrated throughout the book. 

One symptom that Holden displays is long lasting bitterness after Allie’s death. Holden displays that he is bitter because he causes conflict with other people and he also thinks people are phony.  “Even when he was driving his car. That killed me. I just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs” (Salinger 20). Therefore, this  illustrates that Holden thinks that Mr. Ossenburger a former student from Pencey, is a phony. This displays this symptom because Holden starts to call people phony and act this way after Allie’s death which shows the long lasting bitterness. Ultimately, Holden shows his depression through long lasting bitterness after Allie’s death. 

The next symptom that Holden illustrates is that grieving becomes emotional as well as physical. Holden illustrates this when Allie first died, Holden was so distraught over this he punched a window. “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage” (Salinger 5). Therefore this illustrates that when Holden heard that Allie died, he started to grieve physically because he punched all those windows in the garage. The emotional grieving part is the effect after punching out the windows.

Holden could not attend Allie’s funeral because he was in the hospital recovering from the damage he did to himself by punching out several windows. Holden has a lack of closure which makes the emotional grieving prominent because he could not say his last goodbyes to Allie and move on. Another emotional factor is when Holden talks about having a bullet in his gut. This is not a real bullet, it is meant metaphorically, and Holden is about to cry and his depression begins to show physically. Therefore this shows that Holden is showing the symptom that grieving becomes physical as well as emotional.  

The third and final symptom is the difficulty accepting that a loved one is gone. Holden displays this by keeping Allie’s glove with him. Holden also displays this because Holden still feels bad for not letting Allie go to his friend’s house with him. “ So what I did, I wrote about my brother Allie's baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really was. My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder's mitt. He was left-handed. The thing that was descriptive about it, though, was that he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere.

In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he'd have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up at bat” (Salinger 5). This illustrates that Holden keeps Allies baseball mitt because it is the last of him that he has. Also, Dr. Nall talks about this symptom and categorizes it as a symptom of depression, not grieving. “Symptoms of complicated grief include: lasting longing for the deceased loved one, difficulty accepting that the loved one is gone” (Nall 2). Nall also goes to say that complicated grief leads to symptoms of depression. Ultimately this is how Holden shows that he has difficulty accepting that Allie is gone. 

After all is said and done, Holden displays all of these symptoms of complicated grief, that lead to  depression. These symptoms are long lasting bitterness, grieving is physical as well as emotional, and difficulty accepting that the loved one is gone. Holden illustrates these symptoms by words, actions, and conflicts. These are just three that are displayed but there are more symptoms that Holden shows.



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