I think talking about characters in pop culture who are depressed really give a good medium for learning about the disease. I think they offer a genuine example, and no two people are exactly alike either. This is why today I wanted to write about one of my favorite characters from literature, Holden Caulfield.
Caulfield is a character from the J.D. Salinger book, the Catcher in the Rye. He is a special case of depression, because the signs are not really apparent, but as you read and learn about him, he exhibits certain behaviors that are in line with depression.
“I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead.”-Holden Caulfield.
Holden is a student at an all boys school, though he is kicked out because his grades are bad, he differs from Lizzie, in the previous post, because he is an underachiever, and believes he is a “disappointment” to his parents, he also does not have a great relationship with them, they are absent throughout most of the story- which also does not help in instances of mental illness.
Holden doesn’t eat very often either, he has no appetite, there are instances in the story he almost faints because he never eats.
Holden has a bad relationship with most people. If you are a fan of the book (which everyone should be) you know he calls people morons and phonies quite often.
Substance abuse is a big player in depression, because people use it to cope with their sadness. Holden is a teenager but drinks underage quite a bit, and also smokes cigarettes.
I think what is most troubling about Holden’s condition is when The Catcher in the Rye was published, depression was not widely understood nor treated like it is today. People often were subjected to things such as shock therapy, and the medications prescribed were nothing like the SSRIs we have today. This article helps clarify a few things (though it might contain some spoilers, you’ve been warned.)
“Anyway, I’m sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.” -Holden Caulfield.
I think the literary take on the development of depression can be both easier and harder to understand because you’re not watching the story unfold before your eyes. The Catcher in the Rye being one of my favorite books, I don’t know if I would want to see it made into a movie, but I would love to see Holden’s character come to life. He is a likable character, I think, though sometimes he can be a terror, but that comes with the territory. He’s funny, and thoughtful, but honestly just really conflicted. In this Huffington Post Article Robert Jaffee, a mental health activist touches on the good, and not so good qualities he sees in Holden, and talks about the character I know and love.
The Catcher in the Rye is one of my favorite books, even if you’re not reading it to extend the conversation on depression it is an American classic, but truly shows the strides we have made into today’s understanding of mental illness.