Does Holden Have Any Guilty Feelings About Allie

In The Catcher in the Rye, does Holden have any guilty feelings about Allie, and do you feel this is normal?

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden feels survivor’s guilt that he is still alive when his brilliant, kindhearted brother is dead. He also feels some guilt about excluding Allie from an expedition he once went on with a friend. Since this seems to have been the low point of their relationship, he seems to have little reason for guilt, but it is still perfectly natural that he would feel it after losing a sibling.

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Holden appears to have guilty feelings about practically everyone and everything. One of the reasons The Catcher in the Rye is such a well-known and influential text is the clarity with which it presents a deeply muddled teenage psyche, in which guilt, shame, anger, compassion, disgust, desire, and many other...

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Holden appears to have guilty feelings about practically everyone and everything. One of the reasons The Catcher in the Rye is such a well-known and influential text is the clarity with which it presents a deeply muddled teenage psyche, in which guilt, shame, anger, compassion, disgust, desire, and many other feelings attach themselves to a myriad of objects. In Allie’s case, Holden’s feelings are more straightforward than usual. He speaks of Allie with admiration bordering on reverence, constantly emphasizing his intelligence and good nature.

The fact the Holden is always comparing himself to Allie, saying how much better and wiser his brother was, suggests that he is suffering from survivor’s guilt. Why should Holden live while his brother was condemned to die? Although, by his own account, he and Allie had a good relationship, he attributes this to Allie, not to himself. When he is depressed, he says, he recalls the time when he refused to allow Allie to come on an expedition with him and his friend Bobby Fallon. He talks out loud to his dead brother, telling him to come with them. The fact that this is the worst moment he can recall in their relationship, and that even then Allie did not become angry, suggests that they had an exceptionally strong bond and that Holden has very little reason to feel guilt, but he feels it anyway.

Finally, the devastating effect of Allie’s death on their mother exacerbates Holden’s guilt about upsetting and disappointing her. All this is very normal, though it is intensified, like all the other emotions in the book, by the fact that the reader is such a close witness to Holden’s interior monologue.

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Holden seems to be experiencing several types of guilt in relation to Allie's death. Although childhood leukemia is rare, illness in children has a devastating effect on all family members. In the 1950s, cancer mortality rates overall were much higher so a cancer diagnosis was often considered a death sentence. The family would have been burdened with dread the whole time Allie was ill.

Holden possibly suffers survivor guilt, along with guilt over not being a better brother—to Allie while he was alive and to Phoebe now—as well as not being a better son. He is painfully aware of his parents' difficulties with grief, especially his mother's recovery. Much of his anxiety over getting expelled relates to his parents' reaction.

For a teenager misplaced in a repressive school environment, where a classmate also died, feeling not only guilty but overwhelmed by grief could be expected. Holden is not shown interacting with his parents but the fact that he turns to a teacher for help rather than them, and Phoebe keeps saying "Daddy's going to kill you" for flunking out (again) seems to indicate their relationship is strained. As he is not living in a normal situation, it is difficult to gauge what a normal response would be.

Near the end, as Holden prepares to run away, he reads an article about cancer and imagines that he has it and is going to die. As he walks from block to block on his way to meet Phoebe, he keeps asking for Allie for protection, as he is afraid he is going to disappear. These concerns show a preoccupation with death, which is likely tied up with his guilt, and contributed to his having to "take it easy" as he had told the reader on page one, so it seems his parents decided his mental health was not normal.

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Throughout the novel, Holden struggles to accept Allie's death, which dramatically impairs his emotional and social growth as an adolescent entering adulthood. Holden loved his younger brother and was traumatized when he passed away from leukemia. Holden did not seek psychological help and is clearly suppressing his emotional pain stemming from Allie's tragic death at the age of eleven. Holden continually speaks to his deceased brother and mentions that he feels guilty about not letting Allie tag along with him and Bobby Fallon to play near Lake Sedebego. The guilt associated with this particular memory illustrates that Holden is still struggling to emotionally process his brother's tragic death. Holden's guilt over such a minor incident emphasizes his innocent nature and sensitivity. Salinger also creates sympathy for Holden's character by exposing Holden's feelings of guilt for not allowing Allie to join him for a fun day with Bobby Fallon. The reader realizes that Holden could receive valuable psychological help, which would ease his unnecessary feelings of guilt and help him cope with Allie's death.

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Holden may have some guilt about still being alive while Allie is dead. But the real problem is that Holden has not yet come to grips with Allie's death. He stopped growing emotionally when Allie died and is having difficult time moving on. He likes things that don't change ( like the natural history museum) and he wants to be a catcher in the rye in order to stop children from having to grow up. Facing adulthood means being able to move past events of one's childhood and deal with reality. Holden, however, is unable to do either. This is really Holden's problem throughout the novel. It's not that he feels so guilty about Allie's death; he just wishes Allie had not died at all. Whether this is normal or abnormal no one can say. All people deal with grief in different ways. The problem is that Holden hasn't faced the problem yet. Holden's parents just think he's crazy and Holden alienates so many people, he's able to hide his true feeling by being angry and anti-social.

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