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Holden Caulfield And The Stages Of Grief English Literature Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 1057 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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There are seven stages of grief through the process of life and back. These stages are denial, depression, anger, bargaining, guilt, reconstruction, and eventually acceptance. Different stages of grief are represented through the main character Holden Caulfield in the novel, The Catcher in the Rye. Three stages of the stages of grief stands out the most and are focused on as Holden goes through the process of eventually accepting his loss. In the novel the Catcher in the Rye, the character, Holden Caulfield, goes through the many stages of grief, such as, anger, denial, and depression, after the death of his brother, Allie.

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Two stages such as anger and denial in the stages of grief are represented when Holden retraces one of his memories after Allie’s death. The memory Holden shares with us, is the time when he decides to spend a night in his garage Through his anger from his brother’s death, Holden rampages in the garage, breaking all of its windows. From this scene, Holden shows the stages of anger and denial.

“I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddamn windows with my fist, just for the hell of it… it was very stupid I have to admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie (Salinger, 39).”

During that night, Holden expresses his anger and denial by breaking all of the glass windows and not admitting why he did so. From the loss of his brother Allie, Holden expresses his anger and denial physically and mentally. Holden’s anger was expressed through his actions of physically breaking the garage windows with his fist, and his stage of denial was represented by him not admitting why he did so. According to Sarah Cifelli, Holden’s denial of his brother’s death leads him to take action in the garage, and when asked why he did so, Holden doesn’t admit and take credit for what he has done. “His inability to accept the loss of his brother becomes clearer… The action of breaking an entire garage full of windows poses questions, but the main point is, he did not admit the reason for breaking them (Cifelli 2006).” Although both of the stages of anger and denial are present here, the most important stage represented is actually denial. By Holden not admitting why he broke the windows in the garage in the first place, the stage of denial is the most important stage represented here. As Sarah Cifelli has stated before, “… the main point is he did not admit the reason for breaking them…” shows that Holden still believes that Allie is still alive, which leads to the main reason of why Holden took the action of breaking all of the windows.

In another memory Holden shares with us in the novel the Catcher in the Rye, the stage of denial and depression are present as he tries to maintain both his innocence and relationship with Allie. Holden Caulfield wants to be the “Catcher in the Rye”. In other words, he wants to catch all the children who are falling off a cliff into adulthood. Both of the stages are represented together as Holden “catches” everyone from losing their innocence.

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“And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff-I mean if they’re running and they don’t look over where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy (Salinger, 173).”

During this scene, Holden is trying to tell his little sister, Phoebe, that he wants to keep everyone safe and to “catch” them from falling off a cliff. By “catching” people from falling off the cliff, Holden is referring to stop kids from growing up and losing their innocence from the adult world. Holden wants to protect those that he loves and whom he is close to. Besides his little sister Phoebe, Holden also wants to protect all of the children and their innocence. Becoming the “catcher in the rye” in Holden’s mind, this means that he still wants to “catch” Allie from falling off the cliff. Being that Allie is already dead, this shows that Holden is in denial of Allie ever dying. This also relates to Holden’s depression in a sense that Holden is not going to accept the fact that he needs to grow up and join adulthood rather than playing games and all. As everything around Holden is telling him to grow up, Holden turns away from what he thinks will bring him farther apart from his relationship with Allie. As Parthkatri states in the following quote, he helps explain that Holden doesn’t want to change and would rather be with his brother Allie as a child. Unfortunately, Holden doesn’t realize that Allie is dead, and therefore kicks him into the stages of denial and depression. “Holden is not willing to accept the inevitability to change… After Allie’s death, Holden equates the loss of innocence from the changes of the adult world (Parthkatri 2009).” Basically, Holden is in fear of growing up because of two reasons. One being that his brother Allie died as a child and another because Holden believes that all children hold their innocence before they lose it in the adult world. The stage of grief represented here are denial and depression because Holden wants to maintain his relationship with Allie as a child and hold onto his own innocence, but at the same time, Holden is on the verge of becoming an adult, forcing him into more stress and difficulty leaving him to depression. Therefore, Holden wants to protect children and “catch” them from falling into the adult world. Meanwhile, Holden is actually on the verge of falling himself off of the cliff and onto the lap of adulthood. As Parthkatri has explained before, Holden doesn’t want to change, but as he continues on his journey in the novel, the world is showing him that he has to change because growing up is a part of life and you cannot run away from it.


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