Catcher In The Rye
The Impossible Job: Catcher in the Rye
Recent studies show that depression is common among teenagers. Although the research may be new, it is not a new disease that has occupied teenagers. In the novel Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, the main character Holden Caufield is a depressed young man searching for good in the world; scenes in this story push Holden over the edge until he has an epiphany that eventually causes him to have a breakdown.
Holden’s constant inquiry about the location of the ducks in Central Park and his conversation with Sunny, instead of sexual intercourse, signify a lost boy in desperate need of help. Holden interrogates two taxi cab drivers about the location of the ducks during winter in Central Park. As Holden questions the second driver, Horwitz, the taxi cab driver responds by relating the ducks to the fish in the lake. The taxi cab driver irritably responds to Holden’s barrage of questions by replying, If you was a fish, Mother Nature’d take care of you, wouldn’t she? (109) The answer is satisfactory to Holden because he knows that wherever the ducks may be, they are taken care of.
Holden’s motive for wanting to know where the ducks fly in winter is that he cares for them because they relate to him. Similarly, Holden is subconsciously searching for help; he believes that by helping others, such as the ducks, he will find good in the world that will warm his heart and cure him of his depression. However, he finds the ducks do not cure his depression and again he discovers himself feeling lonely. Soon after the duck incident, Holden has his first encounter with Sunny. He starts talking to her and states his (phony) age. Sunny responds, Like fun you are. (123) Then, Holden recognizes she is just a kid; prostitution is no way for a child to live. As Holden tries to reach out to her by initiating a conversation, instead of sex, she only pushes him away by stating, Let’s go. (125) Sunny eventually leaves and again Holden feels depressed.
He only wishes to help her because subconsciously he could relate to her: they were both trapped in a world in which they did not want to participate.
Mr. Antolini’s discussion with Holden, identifying his problem, causes Holden’s depression to soar to a new level. Holden calls Mr. Antolini because he remembers him as a decent man with whom he could hold a decent conversation. Thus Holden enters his apartment and Mr. Antolini recognizes something is wrong with Holden. Mr. Antolini vocalizes his concerns by stating that Holden is riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. (242) Holden cowers away from his advice by thinking to himself he is tired. However, Mr. Antolini hammers on stating, But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they’re brilliant and scholarly to begin with-which, unfortunately, is rarely the case-tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. (246)
Mr. Antolini is trying to help Holden by saying that if he does not apply himself to receiving an education, he is ruining and depriving himself of a happy life; his future will depend on the degree of his education. Holden tells himself he is tired and in fact, he is actually establishing a wall in order to block out Mr. Antolini’s advice. Later, Holden goes to bed and finds Mr. Antolini stroking his head. He exclaims, What the hellya doing? (249) Holden’s new wall is the assumption that Mr. Antolini is a homosexual. As a result, Holden believes this gives him the right to flee from Mr. Antolini’s apartment. Later, Holden becomes more depressed as he realizes Mr. Antolini was only admiring him but, he realizes this at a safe distance. It is another part of his wall to not hear more of Mr. Antolini’s diagnosis; he knows he will never return to the Antolini’s apartment.
Holden’s depression deepens as he has an epiphany both in the museum and at the carousel. For example, Holden stands in a tomb (in the museum) and again he views another Fuck you scrawled under the glass in red crayon. Holden narrates, That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. (264) Holden now realizes, depressingly, he cannot save all the innocent children from the evil of the adult world; he will never be a catcher in the rye. Next, Holden sees Phoebe as she approaches him with a suitcase. He asks, knowingly, what the suitcase is for and she responds, I’m going with you. Can’t I? (267) Holden feels as if he is about to faint; he knows that taking Phoebe with him would be destroying her life too. He knows he cannot save Phoebe because he must help himself first. They cross over to the carousel; Holden consequently has a second epiphany. While Phoebe tries to grab hold of the gold ring Holden states, The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it’s bad if you say anything to them. (274) Holden realizes you cannot tell a kid not to act as a kid: they will no longer be innocent. It depresses him to know he will never again be innocent and that he cannot warn Phoebe of the adult world because she will no longer be innocent.
The world is more knowledgeable today about depression in adolescents. However, depression was just as common long ago as it is today. In J.D. Salinger’s book Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caufield is a troubled, depressed teen looking for a world that is not phony; eventually four scenes in the novel finally lead him to a breakdown. In the end, Holden discovers that being a catcher in the rye is an impossible job and that he cannot he even save Phoebe.