In the novel Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield is depressed teenager filled with angst. His depression is not only evident in his words, but his actions as well. He has never really lived a normal life, for his little brother died when he was just a young boy. He is vulnerable, and he has been in many situations no other person should ever have to experience. Throughout the story, Holden displays his depression and loneliness; he is trapped in a world where he feels he does not belong.
Holden endures an incredible amount of distress at a very young age. The death of his younger brother, Allie, and his family’s unusual way of handling it was the start of his depression. “I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don’t blame them. I really don’t. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it”. (Salinger, 98). Holden misses his little brother, for example, one night while he was walking down the street in the city, he pretends he is talking to Allie. Every time I'd get to the end of a block I'd make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I'd say to him, ‘Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Please, Allie,’ and then when I'd reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I'd thank him”. (Salinger, 198). Holden’s fear of disappearing off of the sidewalk relates to his isolation of the world around him. When he says he is afraid of disappearing, he may really mean he is afraid of dying. He has dealt with death his whole life, but he is so frightened by the thought of dying, he refers to it as disappearing.
After Allie’s death, Holden feels isolated from the rest of the world; like he didn’t fit in. He never really expressed himself in the ways he needed to, which led to an unusual childhood. Holden was never the school type, he felt as though he never fit in anywhere. He failed out of numerous schools, including Pencey, where he talked to his old teacher Mr. Spencer. At first he was happy to see old Spencer, but after a little while of having a conversation with him, he starts to feel depressed. Mr. Spencer talks to Holden about his future and wishes him good luck; Holden thinks wishing someone good luck is a terrible thing to do.
Normally, that is a pleasant way of saying goodbye or hoping someone does well, but it only aggravates him. He hated anything that seems phony, and to Holden, saying good luck to people in as phony as it gets. “God, how I hate it when somebody yells “Good luck! ” at me when I’m leaving somewhere. It’s depressing”. (Salinger, 202). Holden seems to hate everybody he speaks about, yet he still attempts to reach out to them. One of his issues is that whenever he tries to have a conversation or connect with somebody, he always ends up judging them, turning them away and feeling disappointed.
Nobody can ever really bond with Holden; he constantly alienated himself from everyone around him. Holden also claims everyone he has contact with is a “phony”; he cannot seem to accept people for who they are; therefore, he relentlessly feels lonely. When Holden visits his old school to see Phoebe, he notices the words “fuck you” written on the wall. He gets so heated; he rubs it off and wishes he could kill the person who did it. He continues to think about it as he walks through the school, only to find another “fuck you” written on the wall.
Thinking about all the children going out in the hallways seeing the graffiti, and wondering what it meant makes him feel depressed. Again, he is disappointed when he sees yet more profanity on the wall of the mummy’s tomb in the Museum of Natural History. He was enjoying himself in the tomb; he thought it was very peaceful. After he sees what is written on the wall he gets so frustrated he leaves. Whenever Holden gives something a chance or begins to like someone, he always gets disappointed and depressed, and he feels even lonelier than before. “You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any.
You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write “Fuck you” right under your nose. ” (Salinger, 204) ). Holden also pushes away the people he claims he trusts, for instance, Mr. Antolini. When Holden left the house after he visited Pheobe, he called his old teacher from Elkton Hills for help. He was invited over his house and given a place to sleep for the night. Mr. Antolini gives Holden plenty of needed advice, but after Holden falls asleep, he awakens to Mr. Antolini petting the tops of his head. He is so startled he runs out of the house and back out onto the streets.
Holden thought he could trust him, but was in complete disbelief when he woke up. No matter what he does, he always seems to end up in the same position as he was before even when he thought things were getting better. After Holden left Pencey, he decided to sneak into his old home to visit his little sister Pheobe. As soon as he walks into the door she is ecstatic to see him, until she begins to get suspicious about why Holden is home so early from school. She figures out he has been kicked out of Pencey and immediately begins to make a fuss and worry about Holden, making him depressed.
She complains that he doesn’t like any school or anything as a matter of fact, so she asks him to name just one thing that he likes. Holden can’t seem to think of any, instead, he thinks back to when he witnessed a tragic accident at one of his old schools, Elkton Hills. There was a boy named James Castle. He was made fun of and bullied by a few boys, to the point where he jumped out of the window in his room and killed himself. Holden was in the shower when this happened, but he did see James’s body lying on the concrete below. Witnessing this gruesome scene only added to Holden’s disheartening outlook on life, worsening his depression.
When Holden was young, he had a crush on this girl, Jane Gallagher, who is the same girl his present roommate at Pencey is going on a date with. As soon as Holden hears him say her name, it drives him crazy. “You don’t even know if her first name is Jane or Jean, ya goddamn moron! ” (Salinger, 44). The thought of Stradlater going on a date with Jane makes Holden want to kill him; he won’t admit it, but he still likes her. When Stradlater comes back from the date, Holden asks him if he gave her the “time” in the back of Ed Bankey’s car, and when Stradlater doesn’t tell him, Holden tries to beat him up.
This whole situation makes Holden even more depressed and eventually leads to him leaving Pencey. When he wanders through New York City, he constantly has the urge to call Jane and see how she’s doing and maybe even get together with her. Every time he has this idea, he claims he “doesn’t feel like it”, so he never calls her. This could possibly be because of all the other times he has been let down and disappointed by the people he always tries to reach out to; he has no more hope. Holden’s depression gets progressively worse throughout the book; his words and his actions made it increasingly clear that he was emotionally troubled.
Holden never really receives the help he needed and he always dealt with troubles on his own, which led him to be frustrated and oversensitive. He has never felt as though he belonged anywhere; he has always been an outcast in a way. His whole life, he hasn’t really had anyone he can truly trust, and if he thought he did, he ended up being disappointed. Despite Holden’s hatred of everyone around him, he always finds himself in need of a friend or just someone to talk to. “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody” (Salinger, 214).