Holden's Innocence Jesse H


I have recently finished reading The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Sallinger which was originally published in 1951. The main idea you see throughout the book is protecting your innocence and your childhood. The main character, Holden Caulfield, acts throughout the book in some ways that cause readers to think he may have a mental illness. I, for one, think he's just teenager. In Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden is a normal teenager who's gone through some emotionally jarring things and he shows this through his immaturity and inability to deal with emotions.


Holden shows his immaturity innumerable times throughout the book usually in the form of talk of sexual things with his current or previous roommates from his schools or through acting on impulse. Research shows that the parts of the brain that control impulse decision making are among the last to mature during adolescence. The main idea you see throughout the book is protecting your innocence which is something Holden does by procrastinating becoming an adult. At one point he decides to have a drink with a guy he knew and kept trying to bring up who he was sleeping with to which he responded " I refuse to answer any typical Caulfield questions tonight. When in the hell are you going to grow up" (Sallinger 146)? A mature person probably would've thought about whether or not it was appropriate to ask those kinds of questions but since Holden has been fighting his maturity he didn't think twice when saying what he did. Holden shows another sign of a person going through his teenage years throughout the book.

Emotional Instability

Holden has some troubles dealing with strong emotions, good or bad, during the book. There has been much research that shows that, during teenage years, the wiring of the brain involved with processing emotions is changing so teens may react to emotions more intensely. The passing of Holden's brother, Allie, caused him such anguish he says "I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddamn windows with my fist" (Sallinger 39). Holden was only 13 when this happened to him so his brain was beginning to go through this emotional change which may have been the reason he reacted so violently.


Holden Caulfield, the main character in J.D. Sallinger's Catcher in the Rye, has been said to have many mental disorders even though he seems to be just a teenager. He's had to deal with some pretty tough things which makes him desperate to try and stay young, keeping himself immature and emotionally fragile. Holden can be seen many times throughout the book spouting off locker-room talk to many from Stradlater to Carl Luce and this immaturity is a usual symptom of adolescence. Another tell-tale sign of this is his difficulty dealing with emotionally heavy images or situations such as Allie, his brother, dying when Holden was 13. He was so upset that he punched out all the windows in his garage that night. Research has shown that the growing brains of teenagers tend to act childish and respond more heavily to situations of intense emotion. There are many interpretations of why Holden Caulfield acts the way he does. Some say he has depression while others claim it's PTSD from tragic events. I, however, believe the more mundane that he's only a teenager.


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

National Institute of Mental Health. "The Teen Brain: Still Under Constrction." National Institute of Mental Health, 2011, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-teen-brain-still-under-construction/index.shtml. Accessed 7 Feb. 2017. Sallinger, J.D. The Catcher in the Rye. Little, Brown, and Company, 1951.


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