Anti-hero? Hero? Schizophrenic? What is your final view on holden?
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In the novel The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Sallinger, the main character is a teenage boy named Holden Caulfield. We know from the story that he has had trouble in school, that he is socially inept, awkward with people, and has a set of ideals by which he lives in order to be able to tolerate the actions of people.
However awkward he is, Holden is far from being a mentally-ill individual. He is indeed going through a situation that does not allow him to free himself to trust and love others. However, this is not a result of mental illness, but of trauma.
As we also know, his trauma is caused by the death of his younger brother, Allie, to leukemia. Holden narrates that he smashed the windows of the garage and car, and that he literally lost it. He has had trouble with peers ever since, and only communicates effectively with his only (younger) sister,Phoebe, whom he adores.
Hence, Holden is a child with a post traumatic disorder caused by the death of a relative of which he has not allowed himself to grief properly. In order to protect his deep fear of pain, he masks it by creating ideals of what life should be like. This is how he tries to heal.
Holden is one of my least favorite characters in literature. I think that he is a self-absorbed person who is a complete hypocrite. He thinks that everyone else is such a phony and yet he himself acts in so many ways that are not genuine either. I do not like him because he does not seem to accept his own shortcomings and instead chooses to denounce everyone else around him.
I feel sorry for Holden. I find that he is so lost that he cannot seem to find the direction to which he must go. Holden's character is shown in negative light throughout the novel, but only twice is he seen as sincere: watching Phoebe ride the carousal and talking to Phoebe about his dream. The sad thing here is that Holden is too worried about everyone else and not concerned enough about himself. These two passages save Holden's character for me.
To me CATCHER is less about a kid struggling to keep his head above water because of mental illness in the form of PTSD. Holden is barely "holdin' on."
Holden appears to be suffering from PTSD stemming from the death of his brother and from witnessing the suicide of his schoolmate who bailed out of a dorm window wearing the sweater Holden loaned him.
Here are the symptoms of PTSD that Holden exhibits: depression, inability to concentrate, crying, uncontrollable rage, lack of motivation, sleeplessness, etc. (I'm intimately familiar with these symptoms because I was diagnosed with PTSD stemming from childhood trauma.)
In a 1953 interview with a high-school newspaper, Salinger: "My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book ...it was a great relief telling people about it."
I don't think Salinger when he was writing CATCHER had a clue about PTSD, as it wasn't even a recognized psychiatric diagnosis until decades later. He just blasted his feelings onto paper and let the chips fall. He probably thought he was just crazy.
People see JD Salinger as some kind of literary genius because he sold 70 million copies of one book. I think he just opened his spleen and let it rip. I'm not saying he wasn't talented and educted; he had plenty of both going for him. I'm saying he leveraged his talent on top of some inner need to get this desperate crisis part of his life onto paper and kept going until it was done.
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