Similarities between Donnie Darko and Holden Caulfield.

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.



Emotional Breakdown.

Over the course of these chapters, we see Holden come to the breaking point of his life. He is overrun with emotions and is slowly going unstable. He constantly uses defense mechanisms to try to cover up his true feelings of stress and anxiety. There are four aspects to his issues in life and they’re the death of his younger brother, his classmate, his trouble in school, and his unknown love for Jane.

I believe that the death of Holden’s younger brother was the starting point to all his problems. He deeply cares for him and not being able to attend his funeral shows that Holden never really got to say goodbye. In his mind, he lost the only “real” person in his life (and there is nothing more than Holden hates than phonies).  Whenever Holden is upset he brings up Allie. He is stuck in a never ending cycle and refuses to accept his death. Although, at this point, there is only one person who can help Holden, and that is himself. Sadly, Holden remains unmotivated and continues to blame others.

Most of the people around Holden try to motivate him to put effort into his life, school, and grades. Especially his history teacher Mr. Spencer. He once told Holden, “I’d like to put some sense in that head of yours. I’m trying to help you. I’m trying to help you if I can” (Salinger, 14). Despite all the encouragement he gets from others and his sister Phoebe, he just can’t seem to “put himself out there”.


I get a feeling that the whole reason Holden refuses to accept the kindness of others is that he is just simply afraid of getting hurt again. He lost the one person he truly liked and doesn’t talk to the girl he is in love with. He has this barrier set up around him only to protect himself from getting hurt and getting too attached.

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