If there is one person in this world who Holden can relate to it is Donnie Darko. They are both two teenage boys who are struggling with their lives and identity. They fit into the category of “troubled teens”. Their parents don’t understand them. Donnie’s parents hire a therapist to try to help him because they can’t seem to get through to him. While Holden’s parents just send him off to different schools, in hopes of him getting better.
To be honest, Donnie’s therapist, or parents, did not really help him. His parents were too obedient on the therapist and let her give him medication despite his worsening schizophrenia. His hallucinations were at its peak. He was disconnected from reality and those pills only made it worse. Much like Donnie’s parents, Holden’s parents, in a way, let him go. They sent him off to boarding school expecting him to magically get better on his own. I feel like they partially gave up on him. Those pills worsened Donnie’s condition and going away did not help Holden.
The idea of being alone is a fear for both boys. Holden denies it and covers his feelings. Explaining how if you distant yourself you won’t get hurt. An example is when Holden says, “Anyway, it was the Saturday of the football game… I remember around three o’clock that afternoon I was standing way the hell up on top of Thomsen Hill… You could see the whole field from there, and you could see the two teams bashing each other all over the place… You could hear them all yelling.” (Chapter 1). This shows that he is very much isolated, watching his peers from afar rather than joining them. His life as a student is very detached. It can shadow the opening of Donnie Darko when he wakes up on a hill, completely isolated with no sense of direction.
One of my favorite scenes in Donnie Darko is when Donnie is speaking to Jim Cunningham. As soon as I saw this scene I was reminded of Holden. It seems like something that Holden would do, hating phonies and all. And Jim Cunningham is the biggest phony of them all, with a very disturbing secret. I feel like if Jim Cunningham existed in Holden’s world he would’ve lost his mind.
Holden and Donnie are both experiencing madness in different ways. Donnie is quite literally losing his mind, considering the tangent universe and primary universe. While Holden is slowly going mad into a state of despair. Both Donnie and Holden have a distance from reality and an inability to connect with people with an intense fear of being alone.