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Holden’s Depression in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

Everybody feels depressed at some time or another in their lives. However, it becomes a problem when depression is so much a part of a person’s life that he or she can no longer experience happiness. This happens to the young boy, Holden Caulfield in J.D Salinger’s novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Mr. Antolini accurately views the cause of Holden’s depression as his lack of personal motivation, his inability to self-reflect and his stubbornness to overlook the obvious which collectively results in him giving up on life before he ever really has a chance to get it started.

Holden lacks the essential ability to motivate himself, which he needs to survive in the ‘real’ world. He continues to be kicked out of every school he attends because he fails to apply himself, his simple reasoning being ‘How do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don’t’ (213). Everybody else in his life tries to encourage him to care about school and his grades but it doesn?t make any difference. From the start of the novel Holden?s history teacher at Pencey tells him ?I?d like to put some sense in that head of yours, boy. I?m trying to help you. I?m trying to help you, if I can? (14). But the fact of the matter is he can?t help him, Holden has to help himself. The drive to succeed has to come from within him, ?I mean you can?t hardly ever do something just because somebody wants you to? (185). In order for Holden to succeed he has to want it for himself. The only problem being Holden is unable to will him into doing anything he is not genuinely interested in, therefore missing out on further knowledge he could acquire that would truly entice him. Holden gives up on school because he fears if …

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…why he never found them. He will not allow himself to because by this point he had given up on school and eventually he gave up on the whole world. Tragically though, he gives it all up before he truly has a chance to get it started.

Mr. Antolini?s theory as to what is wrong with Holden is right on, it?s just too bad he was unable to get through to Holden. Due to the fact that Holden has already given up on himself and is unwilling to apply the valuable advice he has been given. He has lost the substantial ability to find happiness in life and therefore can?t find the energy to motivate himself in anything he does. It?s a tragedy that someone as bright as Holden Caulfield is unable to find the strength within himself to persevere in a world of insanity.

Works Cited:

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. London: Penguin Books Ltd., 1994.

Importance of Language in The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye, like many other great works, was met by scornful criticism and unyielding admiration. However, many literary critics also marveled at Salinger’s use of language, which was used to make Holden Caulfield, the main character, extremely realistic. Such language includes both repetition of phrases and blatant cursing, in order to capture the informal speech of the average, northeastern American adolescent. Through Holden’s thoughts and dialogues, Salinger successfully created a teenage boy.

The language used in The Catcher in the Rye has long been a topic of controversy in the literary critic’s realm. Holden Caulfield’s thoughts and comments serve to deepen his personality and to provide entertainment. Salinger wanted to create a typical teenager while keeping Holden as an individual at the same time. Like most teenagers, Holden speaks in trite sentences. However, he also uses words in places that were then uncommon. Holden often leaves his sentences dangling with words like “and all” and “or anything.”

Often he uses these phrases to extend some indescribable emotion or action like, “… how my parents were occupied and all before they had me” and “…they’re nice and all.” Many times there is no significance at all to the expressions as in “…was in the Revolutionary War and all,” “It was December and all,” and “…no gloves or anything.” (Salinger 5-7) Not only does Holden speak like this at the beginning of the novel, but also throughout the entire novel, making this pattern a part of his character. Therefore, the “and all” and “or anything” tags to Holden’s speech serve to make his speech authentic and individual.

Salinger intentionally used such speech repetition to individualize Holden…

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…oughout the novel made Holden Caulfield human. Due to the precise representation of a teenage boy, the reader is able to become intimate with Holden’s peculiarities, therefore making him seem more credible. By making Holden come to life through repetition of dialogue and thought, Salinger was able to create one of the most unforgettable characters.

Works Cited and Consulted

Bloom, HB. Major Literary Characters: Holden Caulfield. Chelsea House Publishers. New York, 1990.

Costello, DP. The Language of the Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield. Cambridge, New York; Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Gwynn, F. The Fiction of JD Salinger. University of Pittsburg Press. 1958

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1991.

Salzman, J. The American Novel: New Essays on the Catcher in the Rye. Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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