Holden Caulfield's Diagnosis by: Leila M.


Many books have different ways that an author tries to convey a theme or idea. Everyone can perceive a book differently and the best part about it is that no concept is wrong. In 1951, J.D. Salinger wrote the book The Catcher in the Rye, which further identifies this idea. In this book, a teenager named Holden is telling his story on what happened after he had gotten kicked out of Pencey college a couple years in his future. Many people have different ideas of if Holden suffers from a mental disorder or if he is acting like a hormonal teenager. Depression is a very common mental disease that effects someones actions, behaviors, and feelings. In the beginning of the book, Holden cannot concentrate while he talks to his teacher when he is about to leave the school. Later in the book, Holden contemplates about dying to pneumonia and how his sister would think. In J.D. Salinger's book The Catcher in the Rye, Holden suffers from depression, as exhibited from the symptoms of difficulty concentrating and thoughts of suicide.

Difficulty Concentrating

The first symptom that shows Holden has depression is difficulty concentrating. In the beginning of the book, Holden has just gotten kicked out of Pencey. He had to visit his social studies teacher, Mr. Spencer. While he was talking to Mr. Spencer, Mr. Spencer had him get his essay paper off of his chiffonier and read it to Holden. Holden, at the end of the paper, had written a note at the end of the paper that it was okay if Mr. Spencer flunked him. Mr. Spencer then proceeds to ask him what he would have done if he was in his position. Holden then proceeds to lie continually in order to please Mr. Spencer. However while Holden is lying he proceeds to think, "The funny thing is though, I was sort of thinking of something else while I shot the bull" (Salinger 13). One of the symptoms of depression is a "difficulty concentrating" (NIHM). Holden is lying to Mr. Spencer, but casually thinking about a different topic as he does it. Most people, when lying, tend to be completely focused on their lie, so that they don't slip up and give whatever lie they were telling away from the person who they were lying to. Holden is deviating by lying while thinking about a separate topic when most people have to concentrate on their lie. While Holden's difficulty concentrating is important to conveying his mental disorder of depression, there is still another symptom that helps get the message across.

Thoughts of Death

The second symptom that shows Holden has depression is thoughts of death. Holden is walking on the way to a park to try and clear his mind from being drunk and thinking about pneumonia. He also wanted to try and look for the ducks that are in the park. which is one of the main reasons he went there in the first place. As he was walking through the park, one of the thoughts that crossed his mind was pneumonia, and he thinks, "I started thinking how old Phoebe would feel if I got pneumonia and died" (Salinger 156). One of the signs of depression is someone "thinking about death" (NIMH). Contrary to what most people would believe, death is sometimes a normal thing to think of. However, in Holden's case, he thinks of a seriously painful disease killing him, and of what his closest family would think. People who are contemplating death often think about how the world around them would be affected if they were no longer apart of it. Holden thinking about dying and how his closest alive family member would feel shows that he could very well be depressed.


The symptoms difficulty concentrating and thoughts of death show that Holden has depression in The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Holden had difficulty concentrating while he was talking to Mr. Spencer. Holden had thoughts of death when he was walking through the park and thinking about getting pneumonia and dying. These symptoms convey the idea that Holden has depression. This idea shows that many books can be perceived differently depending on the evidence to prove it.

Work Cited

National Institute of Mental Health. "Depression." National Institute of Mental Health, Oct. 2016, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml. Accessed 01 Feb. 2017.

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


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