Essay, Research Paper: Catcher In The Rye

Literature: Catcher in The Rye

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Recent studies show that depression is common among teenagers. Although the
research may be new, it is not a new disease that has occupied teenagers. In the
novel Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, the main character Holden Caufield is
a depressed young man searching for good in the world; scenes in this story push
Holden over the edge until he has an epiphany that eventually causes him to have
a breakdown. Holden's constant inquiry about the location of the ducks in
Central Park and his conversation with Sunny, instead of sexual intercourse,
signify a lost boy in desperate need of help. Holden interrogates two taxi cab
drivers about the location of the ducks during winter in Central Park. As Holden
questions the second driver, Horwitz, the taxi cab driver responds by relating
the ducks to the fish in the lake. The taxi cab driver irritably responds to
Holden's barrage of questions by replying, "If you was a fish, Mother
Nature'd take care of you, wouldn't she?" (109) The answer is satisfactory
to Holden because he knows that wherever the ducks may be, they are taken care
of. Holden's motive for wanting to know where the ducks fly in winter is that he
cares for them because they relate to him. Similarly, Holden is subconsciously
searching for help; he believes that by helping others, such as the ducks, he
will find good in the world that will warm his heart and cure him of his
depression. However, he finds the ducks do not cure his depression and again he
discovers himself feeling lonely. Soon after the duck incident, Holden has his
first encounter with Sunny. He starts talking to her and states his (phony) age.
Sunny responds, "Like fun you are." (123) Then, Holden recognizes she
is just a kid; prostitution is no way for a child to live. As Holden tries to
reach out to her by initiating a conversation, instead of sex, she only pushes
him away by stating, "Let's go." (125) Sunny eventually leaves and
again Holden feels depressed. He only wishes to help her because subconsciously
he could relate to her: they were both trapped in a world in which they did not
want to participate. Mr. Antolini's discussion with Holden, identifying his
problem, causes Holden's depression to soar to a new level. Holden calls Mr.
Antolini because he remembers him as a decent man with whom he could hold a
decent conversation. Thus Holden enters his apartment and Mr. Antolini
recognizes something is wrong with Holden. Mr. Antolini vocalizes his concerns
by stating that Holden is "riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible
fall." (242) Holden cowers away from his advice by thinking to himself he
is tired. However, Mr. Antolini hammers on stating, "But I do say that
educated and scholarly men, if they're brilliant and scholarly to begin
with-which, unfortunately, is rarely the case-tend to leave infinitely more
valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and
creative." (246) Mr. Antolini is trying to help Holden by saying that if he
does not apply himself to receiving an education, he is ruining and depriving
himself of a happy life; his future will depend on the degree of his education.
Holden tells himself he is tired and in fact, he is actually establishing a wall
in order to block out Mr. Antolini's advice. Later, Holden goes to bed and finds
Mr. Antolini stroking his head. He exclaims, "What the hellya doing?"
(249) Holden's new "wall" is the assumption that Mr. Antolini is a
homosexual. As a result, Holden believes this gives him the right to flee from
Mr. Antolini's apartment. Later, Holden becomes more depressed as he realizes
Mr. Antolini was only admiring him but, he realizes this at a safe distance. It
is another part of his "wall" to not hear more of Mr. Antolini's
diagnosis; he knows he will never return to the Antolini's apartment. Holden's
depression deepens as he has an epiphany both in the museum and at the carousel.
For example, Holden stands in a tomb (in the museum) and again he views another
"Fuck you" scrawled under the glass in red crayon. Holden narrates,
"That's the whole trouble. You can't ever find a place that's nice and
peaceful, because there isn't any." (264) Holden now realizes,
depressingly, he cannot save all the innocent children from the evil of the
adult world; he will never be a catcher in the rye. Next, Holden sees Phoebe as
she approaches him with a suitcase. He asks, knowingly, what the suitcase is for
and she responds, "I'm going with you. Can't I?" (267) Holden feels as
if he is about to faint; he knows that taking Phoebe with him would be
destroying her life too. He knows he cannot save Phoebe because he must help
himself first. They cross over to the carousel; Holden consequently has a second
epiphany. While Phoebe tries to grab hold of the gold ring Holden states,
"The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have
to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but
it's bad if you say anything to them." (274) Holden realizes you cannot
tell a kid not to act as a kid: they will no longer be innocent. It depresses
him to know he will never again be innocent and that he cannot warn Phoebe of
the adult world because she will no longer be innocent. The world is more
knowledgeable today about depression in adolescents. However, depression was
just as common long ago as it is today. In J.D. Salinger's book Catcher in the
Rye, Holden Caufield is a troubled, depressed teen looking for a world that is
not phony; eventually four scenes in the novel finally lead him to a breakdown.
In the end, Holden discovers that being a catcher in the rye is an impossible
job and that he cannot he even save Phoebe.
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