Holden's Diagnosis By alana rohrbach

The Catcher in the Rye(J.D. Salinger, 1951) is a classic, beloved, and contradictory story. Between the 1960s and 1980s, it was the most censored book across America. It was banned for things communist plots, profanity, alcoholism, blasphemy, prostitution, sexual themes, and mental illness. However, this isn't about the (ridiculous) idea of censoring literature. This is about the main character, Holden, and his personal struggles. In the beginning of the book, Holden is expelled from his fourth private school, Pencey Prep. He then sneaks out earlier than he is supposed to leave goes on an escapade through New York City. I believe this behavior exhibits symptoms of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is different for everyone, but is typically a mental disease where someone has many manic and depressive episodes.

One common symptom of bipolar disorder is impulsiveness. This symptom typically happens during a person's' manic, or "up", episodes. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, someone in a manic episode "thinks they can do a lot of things at once" and "does risky things like spending a lot of money." While in New York, Holden does many different things in a short period of time, barely taking the time to sleep. During his first day he spends most of his night in the lounge of his new hotel, talking to girls twice his age and trying to get someone to buy him alcohol. He also spends an immeasurable amount of money. He buys a prostitute and gets drunk a few times. He does these things without thinking about the consequences, which is impulsive behavior.

Another symptom of bipolar disorder is a sudden "crash", or a sudden bout of depression. This is known as the depressive episode. While Holden's transition into depression isn't very sudden, it's more gradual, this can still be classified as part of bipolar disorder. Holden begins to have thought of death, and sometimes even suicide. He wonders what would happen if he were to die, how his family would do and what would happen to his body. In chapter 20, he states "I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody." He also begins to lose interest in the activities he had been doing before. His true "crash" was when he was waiting for Phoebe in the museum, and was seeing "f*** you" written on the walls everywhere.

All these symptoms add up to the conclusion that Holden has bipolar disorder. More evidence can be found in the last chapter of the book, when it is revealed that Holden is telling this story from a mental institution. However, the wonderful thing about literature is or ability to interpret it in different ways. Someone else could have interpreted this differently than me due to their own personal experiences.

Works Cited

"Bipolar Disorder." National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Apr. 2016. Web. 10 Feb. 2017.

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