Within seconds of reading, The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, we discover the relatability of the main character, Holden Caulfield. Holden is struggling through a time of alienation, a sense of failure, and depression. Throughout the novel, he’s retelling the story from a mental hospital, which enlightens us on the root to all of his struggles. A common question surrounding Holden’s character, is what made him this teenager full of angst, separation, and a complete disregard for his own wellbeing? We’re first introduced to this source of unhappiness and trauma, when he mentions his brother, Allie, who died of leukemia. Holden is asked by his roommate from his former school, Stradlater, to write a descriptive essay of an object, where he chooses Allie’s baseball glove. However, we soon realize that he ends up describing much more than just the glove.
He’s dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You’d have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. His teachers were always writing letters to my mother, telling her what a pleasure it was having a boy like Allie in their class. And they weren’t just shooting the crap. (p.43)
This passage demonstrates how much Holden valued his brother. It really forces us to sympathize with his character, because of the pain he’s going through, due to his brother’s death. Holden is forced to cope in a situation of deep heartbreak, that not many can understand. When people wonder why Holden seems so unmotivated and careless, this is why. He’s broken. Holden has gone through a loss that has sent him in a downwards spiral, all due to his grief. However, it’s hard to realize that through the minds of others, because all they see are his surface level emotions, rather than the ones that have taken control of his life. Holden suffers from forms of PTSD and depression, due to this tragic death. It’s so upsetting to imagine that so many teenagers are going through what he is today, and how much it truly affects their lives, as we can see with Holden.