Mental Health of Teens and the Catcher in the Rye

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Mental Health of Teens and the Catcher in the Rye

This essay will explore teen mental health issues as presented in J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.” It will discuss how the novel’s protagonist, Holden Caulfield, embodies the struggles faced by teenagers with mental health. Moreover, at PapersOwl, there are additional free essay samples connected to Adolescence.

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What people never understand is that depression isn’t about the outside; it’s about the inside, a quote asserted by Jasmine Warga. Associating with the black cloud of depression by concealing one’s true feelings is the way many people were brought up by. Depression has a way of silently striking a person, similar to the way it overtook Holden Caulfield, in the book The Catcher in the Rye (genre: literary realism), written by J.D Salinger. Although Holden Caulfield was never clearly recognized as having depression, there were many red flags that suggested his disorder.

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These various red flags have been identified as signs of depression according to Mental Health America’s essay on Depression of Teens. There were many parallels between the Mental Health America’s essay on Depression of Teens and The Catcher in the Rye, indicating Holden Caulfield’s depression including his substance abuse, Holden’s suicidal thoughts, and his lack of enthusiasm.

Mental Health America’s essay on Depression of Teens states that Teens may experiment with drugs or alcohol or become sexually promiscuous to avoid feelings of depression. Throughout the The Catcher in the Rye, there were many cases were Holden resorted to smoking or drinking while he was stressed. For example, Holden states, Boy, I sat at that goddamn bar till about one o’clock or so, getting drunk as a bastard. I could hardly see straight. (Salinger 150) Often, when Holden was bored or lonely, he spent his time at the bar coping with his feelings by drinking. Alcohol may be thought to relieve anxiety, but in reality, drinking increases the severity of depression and could lead to suicidal thoughts. As well as drinking, Holden smoked cigarettes just as frequently. For instance, in Chapter 8 of the The Catcher in the Rye, Holden boards a train to New York to flee from his problems at Pencey. Aboard the train, Holden meets an older women, whom he tries to impress by offering a cigarette, ‘Would you care for a cigarette?’ I asked her. She looked all around. I don’t believe this is a smoker, Rudolf,’ she said. Rudolf. That killed me. That’s all right. We can smoke till they start screaming at us,’ I said. (Salinger, 55-56) After failing school and engaging in a fight with his roomate, Holden uses the cigarettes to relieve the situation. Overall, Holden treats drinking and smoking as a mask from his depressed state.

Throughout the novel, there were many instances where Holden’s depression progressed into suicidal thoughts. Suicidal and self-destructive thoughts are major indications of depression. Mental Health America’s essay on Depression of Teens communicates that, Sometimes teens feel so depressed that they consider ending their lives. There were various situations where Holden thought about his death. For example, in Chapter 20, Holden was sitting on a bench, freezing, and the thought of dying from pneumonia suddenly occurred to him, I thought probably I’d get pneumonia and die. (Salinger, 200) After this statement, Holden angrily relates his own death to Allie’s (Holden’s older brother) death. Usually, a single event has the ability to trigger a series of suicidal thoughts. In this case, Allie’s death was most likely responsible for Holden’s anger and suffering, leading to his self-destructive thoughts. In addition, in Chapter 14, Holden states, What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window. I probably would’ve done it, too, if I’d been sure somebody’d cover me up as soon as I landed. (Salinger, 136) After being assaulted by Maurice, Holden admits that he would rather kill himself then sleep. This thought could arise from the feeling Holden gets of no longer being able to cope with the situation. It is evident that Holden suffers from a mental illness because of the multiple times he experienced suicidal thoughts.

Another major indication of Holden’s depression, is the lack of enthusiasm and negativity he demonstrated in many environments. Lack of enthusiasm, motivation, and energy are all signs, according to Mental Health America’s essay on Depression of Teens, of depression. When adolescents are depressed, they have a tough time believing that their outlook can improve, quoted by Mental Health America’s essay on Depression of Teens. Holden’s usual outlook on his life is taken over by negative thoughts. For instance, in Chapter 17, Holden demonstrates his negative attitude in life by asking Sally if she’s fed up with school. Then he continues on, expressing his hatred for multiple aspects of life, shouting, Well I hate it. Boy, do I hate it. But it isn’t just that. It’s everything. I hate living in New York and all. Taxicabs, and Madison Avenue buses with the drivers and all always yelling at you to get out of the rear door. At this point, Holden has lost control of himself. Likewise, in Chapter 22, Holden states, You don’t like anything that’s happening.’ It made me even more depressed when she said that. Holden cannot come up with one thing he loves in life to tell his sister. Because of his hatred for everything, and his want for isolation from society, one can conclude his signs of depression.

The correlations drawn between Mental Health America’s essay on Depression of Teens and The Catcher in the Rye can conclude that Holden Caulfield suffers from depression. Holden has shown many obvious symptoms of this illness including his substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, and his lack of enthusiasm. Holden is a typical teenager, that suffers from an illness that affects millions worldwide.

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Mental Health of Teens and The Catcher in the Rye. (2019, Feb 04). Retrieved from