Holden's Depression In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye

1545 words - 6 pages

Everybody feels depressed at some time or another in their lives.  However, it becomes a problem when depression is so much a part of a person's life that he or she can no longer experience happiness.  This happens to the young boy, Holden Caulfield in J.D Salinger's novel, The Catcher in the Rye.  Mr. Antolini accurately views the cause of Holden's depression as his lack of personal motivation, his inability to self-reflect and his stubbornness to overlook the obvious which collectively results in him giving up on life before he ever really has a chance to get it started.

            Holden lacks the essential ability to motivate himself, which he needs to survive in the 'real' world.  He continues to be kicked out of every school he attends because he fails to apply himself, his simple reasoning being 'How do you know what you're going to do till you do it? The answer is, you don't' (213).  Everybody else in his life tries to encourage him to care about school and his grades but it doesn?t make any difference.  From the start of the novel Holden?s history teacher at Pencey tells him ?I?d like to put some sense in that head of yours, boy.  I?m trying to help you.  I?m trying to help you, if I can? (14).  But the fact of the matter is he can?t help him, Holden has to help himself.   The drive to succeed has to come from within him, ?I mean you can?t hardly ever do something just because somebody wants you to? (185).  In order for Holden to succeed he has to want it for himself.  The only problem being Holden is unable to will him into doing anything he is not genuinely interested in, therefore missing out on further knowledge he could acquire that would truly entice him.  Holden gives up on school because he fears if he were to bestow his efforts upon his undesired subjects he would consequently become one of the ?phonies? he had spent his entire life hating.

            But like Mr. Antolini tells him,?You?re a student ? whether the idea appeals to you or not.  You?re in love with knowledge.  And I think you?ll find, once you get past all that, you?re going to start getting closer and closer ? that is, if you want to and if you look for it and wait for it ? to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart?

 (189).

 Nevertheless Holden has so much personal pride he refuses lower him to that level.  For if he does, in his eyes, he will be the same as all those other ?Phony Ivy League bastards? (85).  As a result of Holden giving up on school, he is unable to proceed with the natural evolution that must occur for him to move on in society.  Mr. Antolini later points out to him ?Learning is a beautiful reciprocal arrangement.  And it isn?t education.  It?s history.  It?s poetry? (189).  His goal for Holden being to see school as something he loves and not something he is being forced to do.  Mr. Antolini tried to give Holden a reason to be motivated and in which case not to give up so easily.

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