I am writing an essay on Holden Caulfield's depression in The Catcher in the Rye. At the moment, I am trying to create a tangible link between Holden's depression and Allie's death. This has proved...

I am writing an essay on Holden Caulfield's depression in The Catcher in the Rye. At the moment, I am trying to create a tangible link between Holden's depression and Allie's death. This has proved more difficult than expected, due to Holden's lack of deep thought analysis. What are some specific examples proving Holden's inability to cope with Allie's death has put him into a depressive state?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are examples in the text to support how Holden's inability to articulate his feelings about Allie's death has contributed to his depressive state.

Holden has not fully processed Allie's death. He has not experienced the full reach of the stages of grief.  He certainly has not spoken about the impact of Allie's death to anyone in a deep and meaningful way.  With these in mind, there exists a link between Holden's inability to articulate his feelings and his depressive state. What follows are specific text examples where the impact of Allie's death, Holden's inability to fully process it, and Holden's depressive state all come together.

Holden's approach to Allie's death shows an inability to cope.  Holden does not speak about it directly and openly.  For example, he can only address it when he writes Stradlater's paper.  Holden needs to use this as a way to communicate to himself his feelings.  Holden does not have a proper outlet for such intense feelings.  The lack of an appropriate psychological release might have something to do with his depressive condition.

Allie held a special place in Holden's heart.  This is seen in the details that he includes. They are specific and precise.  The details of the green ink, the poems, and the baseball mitt are all tangible.  They are physical elements that Holden has held in his mind since his brother died.  His attention to these details is an attempt to connect with something lost. This reveals that Holden has not found peace. Such a tangible disconnect could be a factor in his depression.

When Holden reminisces about Allie, this disconnect is more profound. Consider Holden's thoughts:  "It wasn’t just that he was the most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest …. God, he was a nice kid, though."  Holden displays an inability to fully understand the death of his brother.  Holden seems to be implying that Allie was too good to die.  It is almost as if Holden is asking why it had to happen.  When Holden talks about how "nice" Allie was, he does not find resolution, and this destabilizes him.

Another example of the lack of resolution that Holden experiences is evident in his reaction to Allie's death.  Violence is how Holden initially dealt with the death:

I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was broken and everything by that time, and so I couldn’t do it. It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly even knew I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie.

Holden's disassociation with himself as well as his reverting to physical aggression reflects the depth of the impact that Allie's death had on Holden. Holden's use of violence does not "get it out."  Rather, the feelings are still there.

Holden's feelings about Allie show that something is a bit off with Holden. This can be seen as a factor in his depressive state:

Then I started doing something else. Every time I'd get to the end of a block I'd make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I'd say to him, "Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Please, Allie." And then when I'd reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I'd thank him.

The refrain of "Allie, don't let me disappear" shows how destabilized Holden is in the aftermath of his brother's death.  He feels lost.  That he thanks Allie suggests he has not processed the full psychological implications of his death; Allie is gone.  The act of "make believe" is a coping mechanism. However, it is not a lasting or effective one.  The lack of a psychological understanding regarding Allie's death triggers Holden's depressive condition.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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