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What are the themes of The Catcher in the Rye?
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Holden Caulfield's suicidal thoughts

Holden displays intense emotion and turbulent behavior throughout the novel, suggesting he is deeply discontented and depressed. As a result, he routinely says that he must commit suicide and often fantasizes about it.
Books Education Literature Mental Health Reading The Catcher in the Rye

The Argument

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden frequently tells readers how he wishes to be dead, or how he has thoughts of dying. These suicidal thoughts go hand in hand with his depression and his past trauma with death.[1] A majority of Holden's conversations with the reader are about death. He has constant thoughts about dying and often thinks of others' reactions to his passing. Holden feels lonely even in the company of others, prompting him to believe he would be better off dead. The deaths of his younger brother and a former classmate have caused Holden to reflect upon dying frequently. They have also negatively impacted his mental health, leading to the development of depression and suicidal thoughts.

Counter arguments

Holden Caulfield only tells readers about wanting to die, but he does not act on his words. He expresses these thoughts when he is feeling at his lowest, but continues on with life. Repeatedly he reaches out to past friends, teachers, and family to seek comfort and support, proving he wants to live.



[P1] Holden Caulfield frequently mentions suicidal thoughts. [P2] Holden reflects upon his own death. [P3] Therefore, the theme of The Catcher in the Rye is death.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] This does not necessarily mean Holden actually wants to die.


This page was last edited on Monday, 26 Oct 2020 at 14:20 UTC

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