The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
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The Catcher in the Rye Theme of Sadness

Let’s do some word counting: variations of “depressed” or “depressing” occur 41 times in Catcher in the Rye. “Happy”? Five. As in, you can count them on one hand. Yep, we feel pretty comfortable saying that “sadness” is a major theme. Holden is just—well, today we’d probably call him clinically depressed. He has no apparent reason to be so bummed out all the time; he just is. The question is, is this sadness a rational response to how awful the world is? Or does he just need some good old-fashioned talk therapy?

Questions About Sadness

  1. Check out our list of things that make Holden depressed in our “Character Analysis.” Do they have anything in common? Or are they just random because everything makes him depressed?
  2. Holden is most happy at the end of Chapter Twenty-Five, while he watches Phoebe go around on the carousel. In fact, he's so happy that he's "damn near bawling." What's up with that? Why does this, of all things, make him happy?
  3. Does Holden sound like he's still sad, now that he's seventeen and telling the story? Or is it more of a, "Sure, I was sad then, but I'm OK now" sort of deal?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Isolation is the greatest source of Holden's melancholy in The Catcher in the Rye.

The more Holden connects to other people in The Catcher in the Rye, the more depressed he becomes.

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