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Diagnosing Holden Caulfield

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Emily Denief

on 26 November 2014

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Transcript of Diagnosing Holden Caulfield

Diagnosing Holden Caulfield
design by Dóri Sirály for Prezi
It is safe to say that Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of the novel "The Catcher in the Rye" is a very complex character, and more than likely is living with some form of mental illness.

Though it was never confirmed by JD Salinger, many readers of his novel have come to some conclusion about Holden's mental state.

As a group, we have been able to find and research some possible explanations regarding Holden's behaviour, and thus came up with a possible diagnosis.

Some symptoms of PTSD include:

Recurring, stressful memories of the traumatic event
Reliving the traumatic event as if it were happening again (flashbacks)
Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event
Severe emotional distress or physical reactions to something that reminds you of the event
Emotional, usually angry, outbursts
Lack of concentration
Difficulty with communication; detachment from other people




The Catcher in the Rye, 1945 J.D. Salinger

It is quite possible that Holden is experiencing PTSD triggered by the death of his brother Allie, and from witnessing James Castle fall from a window and die.

These are both very tragic events that Holden recalls many times throughout the novel.

It is clear from the way Holden talks about Allie that he cared very much for his brother. This admiration is shown through the way Holden views Allie's old baseball glove, and goes so far as to write a report describing its importance in great detail.
Holden says himself that he and James Castle hardly knew each other, and the first conversation they ever had is when Holden let him borrow his turtleneck sweater. However, it is obvious that James' death had a huge impact on Holden's mental health.

Salinger dedicates almost an entire chapter discussing Holden's limited relationship with James and what had happened on the night of his death. James was an easy target for bullies, and was being endlessly tormented to the point where he chose to jump out of a window rather than face them.

It is possible that Holden saw a part of himself in this boy, especially as he died in Holden's borrowed sweater, and recognized that it could have easily been himself in James' place.
By: Emily Denief, Lauren Barron, Valerie Kehoe and Theresa Morrell
(Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
PTSD is described as a mental health condition triggered by a traumatic event.
Holden has shown incidents of emotional and angry outbursts. An example of this is in Chapter 6 when Holden became upset with Stradlater for going on a date with Jane.

Holden started questioning him, asking if he "gave her the time". Holden was becoming nervous, as shown through the phrase "
My voice was shaking something awful.

When Stradlater refused to give up any information on the date, Holden became infuriated and attempted to punch him. Stradlater pinned him down, causing Holden to continuously yell and insult him.

Afterwards, Holden just lay on the floor, explaining "
I was so mad, I was practically bawling.

This scene is a great example of how Holden's emotional outbursts can be triggered by small incidents.
Another instance where Holden showed some of the symptoms of PTSD is in the first chapter when he was talking to his English professor, as he was about to flunk out of Pencey. When asked about his time at Elkton, he attempted to completely avoid the subject and purposely evaded talking about the most traumatic event that happened during his time there.

He avoided the topic of James Castles apparent suicide, and instead discussed the irrellevant topic of the principals "phoneyness". Making no reference to him until a lot later in the book (Chapter 22) when he finally addressed what happened to James. Both he and James had been bullied by a few boys from their school.

James had called one of the boys conceited and when he wouldn't take it back, Holden described what the boys were doing to him as "repulsive" and soon after James jumped out the window and committed suicide.
Holden expressed feelings of helplessness, because people wouldnt go near James' body and nobody could have done anything to help him, especially not Holden .

Holden may still be thinking that: "Maybe I could have done something!" or "That could have been me!"
Holden also shows many instances where he finds it difficult to communicate and get along with others. This is shown in Chapter 12, through his discussion with the cab driver.

While in the cab, Holden tried to start a conversation, asking if the cab driver knew where the ducks go in the winter. When the driver said he didn't know, Holden became upset and continues arguing with him. Holden's ability to connect to others is shown in this scene to be quite awkward, as it appears he refuses to be proved wrong.

Holden's conversation with the cab driver shows many character traits that could be tied into Holden's possible PTSD, including his difficulty to communicate, inability to connect with others, and his frustration at simple things.
This video highlights the symptoms and reasons behind PTSD, and gives some possible treatment ideas for the illness.
Thank you!
-Emily, Lauren, Valerie and Theresa
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