The Biographical Lens applied to The Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger expresses his view of society in his novel, The Catch in the Rye. His viewpoints are seen in the book through the eyes of young Holden Caulfield. This novel demonstrates modern-day dilemmas and complications that teenagers confront in life. Throughout this novel, Holden Caufield, the protagonist shows signs of clinical depression mourning over the death of his younger brother Allie which caused him to have a slight case of Tropophobia. There are many instances that sustain evidence against Holden Caufield’s depression which expose his continuous thoughts of suicide, his choice of withdrawal from society, and his incapability of viewing the beneficial aspects in life rather than the imperfect. Holden is convinced that society is full of “phonies” and nothing else, that all people have a side in which they should not be proud of, expect the younger generation, whom are completely innocent.
Tropophobia, is a global issue where people who suffer from it have the fear of changes. Tropophobia is caused by severe trauma that is somehow linked to sudden changes. Holden has a slight case of this illness, caused by the death of his younger brother, Allie. This would explain the reason that Holden loves the Museum. Holden loves it because it never changes, it’s always the same and is always predictable.
Holden Caufield demonstrates that he has continuous thoughts of suicide in the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”. Holden shows symptoms of depression by giving up when life confronts him with a problem. There are two examples that express’ Holden’s feelings towards death that are exhibited in this novel. A major conflict in this story is when Holden and his roommate get into a dispute. Holden mourns while looking out the window and says “I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead” (page 48, chapter 7). This displays Holden’s suicidal thoughts when faced with a setback. Another instance that express’ Holden’s suicidal thoughts are viewed during a conflict with Maurice (a pimp in the hotel). Holden Caufield is afflicted by Maurice and entertains the thought of ending his life. “What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window.”(Page 104, chapter 14). As always, when problems arise, Holden seems incapable of resolving them and reasons the alternative of ending his life. This is revealed as a symptom of clinical depression.
Holden Caufield also decides to withdraw himself from society. Holden makes this evident in multiple times throughout the novel. He chooses to outcast himself from his peers, family and from society. He demonstrates this aspect when he abruptly asks Sally to move to Massachusetts, “ How would you like to get the hell out of here?…What we could do is, tomorrow morning we could drive up to Massachusetts and Vermont, and all around there, see.”(Page 132, chapter 17). Holden chooses to withdraw himself from his peers and family to live alone and start over in an unfamiliar place. He wants to forget about all he ever knew (New York) and start over; his way of escaping his depressed and lonely surrounding. He displays this aspect once again when he intends to escape out west and live in a cabin away from society.
He makes the decision to isolate himself from everyone he knows: “What I’d do, I figured, I’d go down to the Holland Tunnel and bum a ride, and then id bum another one, and another one, and another one, and in a few days I’d be somewhere out West where it was sunny and where nobody’d know me and id get a job.”(Page 198, chapter 25) He wants to completely isolate himself and extract from others: “I thought what I’d do was, I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn’t have to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anybody.”(Page 198, chapter 25). He desires to extort himself from civilization.
Holden caufield is incapable of recognizing the beneficial aspects in life rather than the imperfect. Holden doesn’t see the positive qualities in people and views the negative. He calls others (including his peers and family) “phonies”. There are many moments throughout the novel where Holden is judgmental regarding people he’s never encountered before. He claims that they’re deceiving and “phony” when he hardly knows them. For instance, before Holden Caufield encounters Sally’s friend at the play (“strictly ivy league”, page 127, chapter 17) he says “Then all of a sudden, she saw some jerk she knew on the other side of the lobby” (Page 127, chapter 17). Holden calls Sally’s friend a jerk before he even meets him, as he contemplates negative thoughts from the commencement of things.
Additionally, Holden calls a considerate and thoughtful teacher by the name of Mr. Spencer, deceptive: “Even the couple of nice teachers on the faculty, they were phonies, too…There was this one old guy, Mr. Spencer.” (page 168, chapter 22) Mr. Spencer is extremely considerate and concerning towards Holden; when he invites him over to his house to say good-bye: “I’m trying to help you. I’m trying to help you, if I can.”(Page 14, chapter 2). He calls many things around him phony, these phony things are usually things he relates to adulthood. Not only does Holden fear adulthood himself, but he also wants to save others from becoming adults. As he explains about his dream job that Holden’s only place in life is to catch kids who fall from the rye. J.D. Salinger uses the term falling because falling into or towards something is usually used in a negative aspect. Holden is a depressed character; he reveals the negative traits of people from the beginning, instead of admiring the respectable qualities they have.
J. D. Salinger uses symbolism in several occasions, he shows Holden’s curiosity about the ducks in the lagoon. Holden doesn’t understand how the ducks are so adequate with change while he fears it so much. The author also mentions the strangeness of Holden’s hat, this represents his uniqueness and how he doesn’t want to become like other people, like adults. The red hunting hat is also symbolic in the way that both Allie’s and Phoebe’s hair is red, this represents how Holden wants to be like them; the fact that they are both young and innocent attracts Holden to want to be like them.
The protagonist in J.D Salinger’s novel “The Catcher in the Rye”, Holden Caufield is portrayed as a clinically depressed character. He is suicidal, constantly contemplating negative thoughts, and isolates himself from civilization. It is revealed that depression amongst youth is not easily overcome as is the grieving process of progressing after a significant loss in their life.
Salinger, J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. Print.
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