A Response to Holden Caulfield

February 27, 2008
By Rachel Barnes, Mason, OH

Dear Journal,

Today I met one of my most intriguing patients in a long time. Holden Caulfield could be easily classified as a boy with chronic depression and traumatic stress, for he has such an interesting tale of events. However, I feel I must further investigate his case on a more personal basis.
The first interesting aspect of his case is his feelings towards his parents, or lack there of. At the beginning of our first session together he states that he doesn’t want to go into detail about his parents due to their reaction. Mind you, none of this information ever makes it back to them, but his instinctual reaction when his parents are mentioned makes me question their presence in his life. Another incident that makes me wonder is when he describes his reaction to his brother’s death. I am not so much bothered by the fact that he was punching at safety glass with a broken hand alone in a basement. Especially in teens, sadness can quickly turn to aggression and with such high adrenaline; it is quite possible that he didn’t feel his injuries. However, how do decent parents hear shattering glass in their home and not come down to check on their child? Holden was having an emotional break down and yet they were no where to be found. Even in grief, these so called parents still have three more children left.

Another example of the lack of parents in Holden’s life is the incident of the skates. Clearly, this bother’s Holden, or else he wouldn’t have brought it up. I question his parents love for him in the fact that they could not buy him the right pair of skates. Their son was away at school all year and yet they cannot manage to buy the only gift their son wanted. Also, when Holden describes his encounter with Phoebe, the parents are no where to be found. What kind of parents would leave a small child home with only a half-deaf maid to care for and protect her? I believe this lack of affection is ultimately what causes Holden to be the way he is.

He describes the incident with Mr. Antolini as something suggestive and promiscuous. I do not believe this to be true. Holden is not used to any sort of affection, or even positive attention from adults. I believe that the lack of parental guidance causes him to question any caring as something more than it is. When Mr. Antolini is patting him on the head, I think of it as more of a parental affection than that of a perverted one. Mr. Antolini truly seems to care for Holden and I do not believe that he is used to that, therefore his misconstrues it.

This lack of parental presence in Holden’s life leads him to an almost compulsive state of caring. He seems to care about everything and everyone, almost to a sickly state. He worries about the future of strangers and prostitutes to a level that depresses him. In order to make up for his lack of guidance, he believes that he must care for everyone else. Be a catcher in the rye as he puts it. And while I believe that he truly does worry about these people, I can’t help but wonder if this is him portraying his fears through others. He worries about their futures, innocence, morals, and educations, things he has problems with himself. The strongest portrayal of this was through the death of a boy named James Castle. Holden shared with me that James died in his sweater, seeming to symbolize his own death. Previously, he had also mentioned his thoughts of suicide by jumping out the window. These worries only make me wonder: Would he do it? Could Holden Caulfield bring himself to end his own life? No. He cares too much. He knows that it is a gruesome act and he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Well, another session is about to begin, I’ll keep you updated.
Dear Journal,

Five months after I have finished my work with Holden Caulfield, I’m sad to say that I was wrong about him. The front page headline of the California Sun today read, “Death of Daughter Leads to Suicide of Son.” After coming down with pneumonia from a wet, cold day in the park, Phoebe Caulfield passed away due to asphyxiation. Shortly after, Holden was found in his room at school with a fatal shot through his brain, ruled suicide by the local coroner. The only conclusion that I can come to is the death of innocence was too much to Holden. After all he had been through, Phoebe was the only person that Holden never once considered phony. Without this innocence in his life, there was no one left to catch.

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