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How Holden's Mindset Made his Life Harder in the Novel Catcher in the Rye

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One of the most common unrealized mental illnesses teenagers struggle with today is depression. The state of depression has meaningful effects on a person's thoughts, behavior, and feelings. In The Catcher in the Rye the author J.D Salinger highlights the negative impacts of depression the protagonist, Holden had gone through. Holden has gone through the emotional pain of his younger brother Allie's death which led him to be depressed throughout his life. One of Holden's teachers, Mr. Antolini tries to set him up to understand his bad habits as he points out the habits that led him to depression. He tries explaining to Holden that he must ignore the negative and bad people in society to fully experience the value and meaningful relationships in life. When Mr.Antolini attempts to prevent Holden's “bad habits” of depression, Holden understands his unrealistic approach to life but becomes more depressed during the process of Mr.Antolini's explanation. Because of this, he comes across significant falls in his depression as he detaches from society, abuses substances and doesn't ask for anyone's help.

In The Catcher in the Rye Salinger wants the reader to see that the most important cause of Holden's depression was his detachment from society. He indicates how holden detaches himself from the people around him as he doesn’t want to develop any social bonds. Salinger indicates this when Holden never meets Jane, his crush. He had an opportunity while she waited for Stradlater, his roommate, but didn't even though he wanted to talk to her. He tells us this when he says “I oughta go down and say hello to her...but I'm not in the mood right now”(Salinger 32-33) which tells us he was avoiding approaching her because he was scared to meet her and talk to her. Holden’s fear of being accepted by everyone is one of his main reasons for not developings bonds with people like jane which is bad with his depression. With this, it also lowers his confidence in himself and creates more depression. Another way Salinger indicates Holden's independence is how he wants to live in the past. He indicates Holden not communicating with his society as he wishes to live alongside his brother Allie who past away. He wishes he lived alongside Allie in their childhood because he misses the original bond they had together. Because of this, Holden is not accepting his society’s way of life and can’t accept adulthood and his brother's death. Holden pointed this out when he said “I like Allie… just because some is dead, you don't just stop liking them, for God’s sakes- especially if they are about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that's alive”(Salinger 171) telling us he thinks you shouldn’t stop liking someone who past and that Allie was way nicer to him so that's why he created a better bond with him. Which is also the reason he doesn’t try to bond with his society. When Holden does realize he can't live in his childhood forever, he was forced to see he also can't live with the same value in the society that Allie had. When Holden figures that out, he finds himself in a very tough situation with his life which created sadness and depression.

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Salinger then wanted the reader to see how abusing substances is unhealthy and lead Holden to do bad habits creating worse depression for him. The reason for this is because every time Holden had to deal with problems, he drank instead of Dealing with them. This negatively affected him throughout his life. Instead of getting help with his emotions, he would try to drink and hope he feels better again. Drinking occurred frequently with Holden because he had a bad drinking problem. He also smoked too. With abusing these substances, Holden created bad behavior within himself as he lost interest in school and the people at his school. Holden tells this to Phoebe when he says “it was one of the worst schools I ever went to. It was full of phonies. And mean guys...I just didn't like anything that was happening at Pencey”(Salinger 167-168) which indicates because they were mean to him he didn’t bond with anyone at school making him hate pencey. The other way Holden created bad habits was his drinking problem, he drank a lot when he was sad which reveals his depression. Holden indicates this when he had an argument with sally, he doesn’t solve his problem with her and instead, he decides to drink. That Is revealed by Holden when he said “she kept telling me to go away and leave her alone, so finally I did… and left without her.” (later that day)“I shouldn't… I was too drunk to give a damn”(Salinger 130 and 152) indicating that holden has bad depression that is leading him to have a bad drinking problem so he drank too much and got mad at Sally so he left without her.

Holden’s depression eventually was evident through his detachment from his society and abusing substances that led to his bad habits and behaviors. Mr.Antolini provided help for Holden's potential downfall as he indicates that Holden’s negative approach to life is wrong. Him being stubborn on his thoughts will keep getting him worse in life. As he still stayed stubborn, he did get worse with his detachment from society and abusing substances which caused worse depression. He also didn’t adapt to his society's lifestyles and avoided adulthood making a big downfall in his depression. When he finally changes, he was forced to question his mindset and approach towards life. This probably had him flashback to when him and Mr.Antolini talked about his mindset before he changed and how he wished he would’ve listened to him. Because all he needed was a better mindset towards life.

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How Holden’s Mindset Made his Life Harder in the Novel Catcher in the Rye. (2022, Jun 16). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 5, 2023, from
“How Holden’s Mindset Made his Life Harder in the Novel Catcher in the Rye.” Edubirdie, 16 Jun. 2022,
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How Holden’s Mindset Made his Life Harder in the Novel Catcher in the Rye [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Jun 16 [cited 2023 Dec 5]. Available from:
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