In J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in The Rye, the reader is presented to Holden Caulfield, a 17-year-old who’s retelling the story of him at 16 facing rough times. Holden starts off by telling us that he has been kicked out of another school, Pencey Prep. He from there decided to leave and head for New York City. He wandered around from place to place because he refused to go home to his family. At the very end, he went on a small excursion with his little sister, Phoebe, which brought him a sense of exhilaration. Throughout this time he does many things that may be considered teen-like, but Holden proves to be an abnormal adolescent. He has parts of his emotional, behavioral, and social health that highlight how there is something truly wrong with him.
Adolescence counts as “the years between ages 13 and 19 and can be considered the transitional stage from childhood to adulthood.”(Psychology Today) As explained by Georgetown Behavioral Health Institute, being normal includes wanting to spend time with family, a small dislike of school, not abusing drugs, and trying to fit in with those around you. These were all things that Holden did very poorly.
Holden has many characteristics in his emotional health that show that he is an unusual teenager. The American Psychological Association tells us that” self-esteem, whether high or low, may remain relatively stable during adolescence or may steadily improve or worsen”(APA 15). Holden was one of the ones who had a drop in self-esteem. He used to think highly of himself, telling us stories of how he used to do things that impressed himself and others. As the stories progressed, those stories changed more into how he had a very low opinion of himself. Holden said that he’s the “only dumb one in the family”(Salinger 75). He was also always saying that he felt depressed. These things highlight there to be something wrong with Holden. He had a depression that was very excessive and uncontrolled. The depression started off as a small thing, but it began to consume him as the book progressed where he had moments of uncontrolled crying and of talking to his dead brother. Some people may say that Holden’s depression was completely normal because it’s just part of being an adolescent; however, this is not true. The thing that most teens feel is sadness, not depression. Depression most times need to receive medical attention Not all teens need to be treated for feeling sad, but Holden did end up looking for help for the problems he had.
Holden also had some behavioral issues that highlight that something’s wrong with him. The APA tells us that it’s fine to experiment when you’re an adolescent except when “it seriously threatens the youth’s health or life”(APA 15). Holden is one who loved to experiment. He drank, smoked, and wanted to experiment with sex; however, two of these things put his life at risk. He said that he could smoke 3 cartons of cigarettes in one day (Salinger 178) and he could sit around a bar and get very drunk(Salinger 166). He got so drunk he was imagining that he had been shot and he was also walking through the freezing cold with wet hair. He used alcohol as a way to ignore and escape the difficult situations he had around him. That’s why he could excessively drink. It’s very rare to see a page in the book where Holden isn’t drinking or smoking or thinking about doing it. It’s abnormal for teens to drink and smoke that much at 16, even in the 1950s. He used drinking and smoking as a way to escape facing his actual problems. Preferring to drink every day rather than going out to show us more of what Holden actually felt. He had very low self-esteem, so drinking was just his way of trying to combat that, but it endangered his life many times. Acting out because of all the excessive drinking is not normal in a 16-year-old. There had to be a reason as to why he chose to do that knowing that it could put his life in danger.
Holden had a very poor social life. He got kicked out of many schools and he didn’t have any actual friends. He avoided talking to new people unless he decided that they weren’t “phonies”. He decided to only see bad in people. He also didn’t have a good connection with his family due to the fact that he was separated from them while he was at school. The APA tells us that “a strong sense of bonding, closeness, and attachment to the family have been found to be associated with better emotional development, better school performance, and engagement in fewer high-risk activities”. Holden didn’t have that strong bond with his family, so he was always trying to talk to people in order to fill the hole that he felt after Allie’s death. Wan Roselezam Wan Yahya and Ruzbeh Babaee tell us that Holden “experiences an urgent necessity to talk” probably to ignore the people around him who he doesn’t want to talk to. It’s unusual for people to rely on strangers to let out their feelings. It’s more normal to try to deal with your problems, but even Holden had problems with that. He broke all the windows in the garage after his brother died and still didn’t find any sense of relief from that. Social isolation is a key point in noticing that something may be wrong with a teen. It allows a lot of time for depression to breed and get strong. That was the case with Holden.
Everything that Holden went through put him through difficult situations. His brother died and he had a very bad relationship with his parents. Having to experience all that trauma without having someone to talk to can cause you to have a lot more problems than the ones you already do. That’s what happened with Holden. His emotional, behavioral, and social development all prevented him from being the normal and healthy adolescent he could've been.