Diagnosing Holden Kiersten Marcy


In the novel Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger who published in 1991, many interesting things happened in the main characters life. The main character, Holden, goes through many obstacles all alone in New York city. Holden has definitely witnessed enough tragedy at 16 to last him a lifetime. This boy is a rebellious, angry, but also very sad teenager looking to save young children's innocence. During Holden's "adventure" through New York he seems to exhibit plenty of signs of him suffering from bipolar disorder. In Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden suffers from Bipolar Disorder exhibiting symptoms of suicidal thoughts and constant agitation or being very "touchy."

Suicidal Thoughts

In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye his main character Holden seems to be struggling with Bipolar Disorder because he has constant suicidal thoughts. When Holden is sitting in the park all alone on a bench he thinks "Then I thought about the whole bunch of them sticking me in a goddam cemetery and all with my name on the tombstone and all. Surrounded by dead guys. Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something." (Salinger 155). This is an example of how Holden thinks about death or in this case where people would put his body after he died. He fantasizes about his funeral in several parts of the novel. When Holden would get to street corners or "Everytime I'd get to a block I'd make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I'd say to him 'Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie don't let me disappear. Please Allie.' And then when I'd reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I'd thank him." (Salinger 198). This is another example of how Holden often thinks about death because he was "praying" to his dead brother Allie to not let him get hit by a car and "disappear." An average bipolar individual also can often think of death or ways they would die. (NIMH). Some can fantasize about death like Holden does on several occasions but they can also severely fear it, which Holden also does in a few sections of the novel. Holden's mood constantly fluctuates about death because regardless of how often he thinks about it he doesn't seem to want it to actually happen. Holden experiences very sudden mood changes revolving around his suicidal thoughts which he tends to have way more often than the average human at age 16. Suicidal thoughts is a symptom of having bipolar disorder. Which is why Holden should be diagnosed with this mental disorder.

Extreme Agitation/"Touchy"

In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden experiences symptoms of containing bipolar disorder. One of the many symptoms he contains is that the 16 year old can go from being in a calm, quiet state to being extremely agitated. Holden met up with his younger sister Phoebe and told her about how he was going to travel west to start over with his life where no one knows him, meanwhile he didn't want her going with him, she persisted. During this situation he said "'You're not going. Now, shut up! Gimme that bag,' I said. I took the bag right off her. I was almost set to hit her. I thought I was really going to smack her for a second." (Salinger 206). This situation proved how extreme Holden's anger can get to. He was completely calm before his naive younger sister said she was going to be going with him when he traveled west. Holden also went to drop a note off at his younger sister's school and he saw something that made him extremely angry. In this moment he thought "I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written 'Fuck you' on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy...I kept wanting to kill whoever'd written it." (Salinger 201). A bipolar individual also experiences sudden mood changes, some more severe than Holden's. A bipolar individual can be in a calm situation whether it be at home with family or it be in the middle of a grocery store, something can trigger this out burst. The outburst are not always involved with anger, a bipolar person can experience manic episodes of sadness, anger, or possibly bursts of happiness. (NIMH). Holden and a bipolar individual are very similar because they both experience extreme mood changes, both Holden and a person suffering from bipolar disorder also do not notice how extreme and sudden their mood changes can be. Holden experiences very sudden mood changes in calm situations or when something could take away the innocence of a young one. Extreme agitation is a symptom of having bipolar disorder. Which is why Holden should be diagnosed with this mental disorder.


In Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden suffers from Bipolar Disorder exhibiting symptoms of suicidal thoughts and constant agitation or being very "touchy." On several occasions Holden suffers from severe suicidal thoughts. He will fantasize about his own funeral, then be scared to die and beg/pray for his dead brother to keep him safe and to not allow him to disappear. On several other occasions Holden experiences drastic mood changes, most of the time them being anger or agitation. He is easily triggered by things that could possibly take away the "innocence" of young children. And by innocence he means the pureness of children, because most of the time they haven't experienced the bad parts of the world yet and Holden knows this. He often will go from calm and collected then he will see something or hear something that triggers him, on one occasion he wanted to hit his younger sister because of the amount of anger he was feeling towards her. He also on another occasion wanted to kill the person who wrote foul language on the wall of his younger sister's school. Holden's diagnoses is that he suffers from Bipolar Disorder, with severe suicidal thought and extreme anger in sudden situations.

Works Cited

“Bipolar Disorder.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health, April 2016, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/bipolar-disorder/index.shtml. Accessed 29 Jan. 2017.

Salinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye, Little, Brown, and Company, 1951.


Created with images by WerbeFabrik - "child play playground" • samhsloan@gmail.com - "catcher-in-the-rye-cover" • 50 Watts - "Randy McKee, The Catcher in the Rye (entry for the 50 Watts' Polish Book Cover Contest)" • FrankWinkler - "new york skyline manhattan"

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