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.
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.
In The Catcher In The Rye, we meet a teenage boy named Holden. His first introduction wasn’t a good one; he is expelled for failing four of his five classes at his private school. Following his expulsion, his history teacher, Mr. Spencer, decides to have a word with Holden. He explains how life is nothing but a game, a game where you must play by the rules. Now, Holden is a boy who has pretentious views and absolutely hates phonies. Although, it seems that he does hold some respect for Mr. Spencer (mostly due to his age), but after their meeting, Holden is only filled with annoyance and loathing. I find Holden to be a very interesting character who is highly misunderstood. He is the type of person you have to analyze to understand. So far I have noticed that he covers his feelings. If I could describe Holden in two words they would have to be lonely and misread. He hates leaving schools because he hates goodbyes. But it’s more of the fact that he has no one to say goodbye to. He once recalled a fond memory of one night where he had passed a football around at night with some friends, showing some possible sadness of leaving people he knows behind. That little memory shows that deep down, he really is just a normal teenage boy who probably wishes his life could be as typical as everyone else’s.
It is also strongly hinted that Holden has immense feelings for an old friend named Jane. His low-key sloppy but attractive roommate, Stradlater, is introduced. He tells Holden that he is going on a date with a girl named Jane. Holden is clearly tormented by the idea, thus revealing his true feelings towards the girl named Jane. Stradlater then tells Holden to do his homework for him in a composition paper. Instead of doing what he was told he decides to write about a baseball glove his brother Allie used to own. Stradlater becomes irritated and begins to insult Holden but he gets no response. Holden then asks about the date with Jane and Stradlater refuses to tell Holden anything, leading to a fight.
Clearly hurt and agitated he decides to leave for New York for a few days and stay in some cheap motel. He sells his typewriter to a rich kid down the hall who was borrowing it for $20. After he had packed and cried for a bit he then looks back at Pencey and shouts “Sleep tight, ya morons!”
I feel that in a way, Holden can be a relatable character. Just another teenager who is stuck in a never ending depressive episode. As Mr. Spencer said, life is a game with only two sides; the winning or losing. Right now, Holden is no doubt in the losing category. His peers are constantly telling him he is useless or hinting that he is going nowhere. I see Holden as a mentally ill teenager who can’t help but see the world as superficial or hypocritical. I am very interested in learning more about Holden’s past and what affected him so much.