Holden's Struggle Eden himmelberger


J.D. Salinger's book The Catcher in the Rye (published in 1951) is about a Teenager expelled from a private school who then has to go back home to his parents. While staying in New York away from his parents, Holden learns valuable lessons on innocence, his own sexuality, and what it means to be an adult. But there is something you may have missed, Holden may have a mental disorder, particularly Bipolar II disorder, a disorder that causes major mood swings as well as other symptoms. In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, quotes from the text show the fact that Holden Caulfield suffers from bipolar disorder.

Depressive Episodes

Holden has a few very notable mood swings throughout the book, A key symptom of Bipolar disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health classifies Bipolar II Disorder as "a pattern of depressive episodes and hypo-manic episodes" which means extreme highs and lows in someone's mood. Holden has quite a few lows and highs in his mood throughout the book, like when he says "New York's terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed. I kept wishing I could go home and shoot the bull for a while with old Phoebe." This quote shows how depressed Holden is feeling, he's so lonely that he can't even hear another person's laugh without getting upset. Does this sound like the thoughts of a regular teenager? How about when Holden says "So I went in this very cheap-looking restaurant and had doughnuts and coffee. Only, I didn't eat the doughnuts. I couldn't swallow them too well. The thing is, if you get very depressed about something, it's hard as hell to swallow." Holden is feeling so down that he can't even eat donuts and coffee. This is not only unlike Holden, but also unlike an average teenage boy, eating to fuel his growth spurts. But these are only the depressive outbursts, that about the hypo-manic episodes?

Hypo-Manic Episodes

Holden also expresses Hypo-manic episodes of very high energy and an overly good mood or do risky things like have unprotected sex or spend a lot of money. When Stradlater had come home from his date he started arguing with Holden over what had happened with Jane and then Holden does this, "I got up from the bed, like I was going down to the can or something, and then I tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his goddamn throat open." Holden is making Stradlater out as his adversary even though he didn't do anything wrong or unexpected. Holden is also showing a lot of malice towards Stradlater, a side of Holden we don't throughout the book, Holden even calls himself yellow, even though he tried to potentially kill Stradlater with a toothbrush. This is not only a very questionable act, Holden seems to completely forget about it the next scene and later talks about Stradlater as someone he missed even, "About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about. Even old Stradlater and Ackley, for instance." Not to mention Holden has a breakdown in front of Sally Hayes calling her "A real pain in the ass" but also asking her to run away with him. Later in the story Holden calls Sally when hes drunk and says he will indeed come and trim a Christmas tree for her.


These are not the only examples of Holden's many mood swings throughout the novel, but they were 2 that i found were the most profound and best related to my topic. Does Holden have Bipolar II Disorder? the only person who really knows is J.D. Salinger, but i think due to Holden's actions, that he has Bipolar Disorder. I encourage you to pick The Catcher in the Rye up, read it yourself and make your own determination on whether or not Holden is Bipolar, or just a troubled teenager.

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Eden H

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