Is Holden Caulfield Depressed? By Colin Foster


In J.D Salinger's Catcher In The Rye, Holden Caulfield is forced to go through many new experiences as he is enters the start of adulthood. The book tells the story of a teenager coming of age, trying to understand who he is while adventuring New York City. The main character Holden shares his tales of adversity and hardships which he had experienced through the course of his life, which lands him where he stands today. Although Catcher In The Rye was published in 1951, the story still has many conventional ideas that are shared by teens like Holden around the world today. One idea that is made prevalent throughout the books is the debate whether Holden Caulfield suffers from depression. Based on textual evidence from the novel, Holden Caulfield should be diagnosed with depression due to his suicidal thoughts as well as his severe and constant irritability.

Suicidal Thoughts

Every sine he was a child, Holden Caulfield experienced death as well as the loss of several people who he was close to, one of them being his own brother. As a result of this, the thought of death is constantly on Holden's mind. The fact that thoughts of death and suicide are on his mind so frequently, helps to prove the point that Holden suffers from depression. "If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression: Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts." This piece of evidence describes how Holden's constant thoughts of suicide help to shine light on the fact he may be struggling from depression himself. In addition to the loss of his brother, he also witnessed the death of a fellow class mate, James Castle. Holden tells the story of a student who he used to attend school with who took his own life by jumping out a window. "What I really felt like though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window"(Salinger 104). This quote once again reflects the fact that suicide is a common topic that is on Holden's mind. The idea of jumping from the window may have came to Holden due to having witnessed someone else do the same thing, that person being James Castle. Based on the fact that Holden is constantly contemplating suicide and since this is a symptom of depression, he can be diagnosed as depressed.


Being that depression is one of the most common mental disorders in the United States, it is not unlikely for Holden Caulfield to be one of the many who are affected by this disorder. Throughout the book Holden showcases his irritability in many ways, one being the way he acts towards others. "Depression is now recognized as occurring in children and adolescents, although it sometimes presents with more prominent irritability than low mood." This piece of evidence shows to recognize the fact that depression is something that occurs in teens just like Holden, and it is not uncommon. Another way that Holden makes his irritability known is the fact he is so judgmental and refers to many people as "phonies." An additional instance of where Holden shows the fact he is easily irritated is when he is on his date with Sally. When he goes on the date, Holden first feels like he could fall in love with Sally. Although he feels strongly for her initially, by the end of the date Holden and Sally have an argument due to Holden's ability to become irritated by even the smallest things. "She always knew somebody, any place you took her, or thought she did. She kept saying that till i got bored as hell (Salinger 127)." Even though she was on a date with him, Holden became very angry with Sally once she took her attention off of him and was paying more attention to George when he came into the restaurant. This proves the fact that Holden can be irritated by small things, including things that may not be directed towards him. His amount of irritation helps to show that Holden suffers from depression.


Throughout the book Catcher in The Rye by J.D Salinger, it is explained that Holden Caulfield goes through many things in his life which led him to be the person he is. Due to some of the things that happened in Holden's life effected him, with one effect being him suffering from depression. Holden's depression is manifested by both his suicidal thoughts as well as his irritability.

Works Cited

"Depression." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Oct. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017. <>.

Salinger, J. D. Catcher In The Rye. New York: Little, Brown, 1951. Print.

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