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What’s Wrong with Holden Caufield?

written by: Sarah Degnan Moje • edited by: Carly Stockwell • updated: 9/9/2013

Is Holden Caufield suffering from your typical teenage angst or does he have a deeper issue? This interesting lesson plan and assignment will have your high school classroom make a literary diagnosis of the main character from "Catcher in the Rye".

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    What's Wrong with Holden Caufield? High School Lesson In high schools across America, students are introduced to that now iconic character of Holden Caufield. The very definition of a moody, sullen, lost teenager, his angst takes him through various school settings and out into the streets of New York City, where he struggles, unsuccessfully, to find something or someone to make him happy.

    His life goal comes from a misunderstood interpretation of a poem, his family, awash with grief over the death of his brother, fails to notice how much he is struggling, and his young sister is the only voice of reason in his life. Is Holden suffering from “normal" teenage depression, or does he have a deeper problem, one that might need professional help?

    Using the power point on different mental illnesses, have your students prepare a clinical diagnosis for Holden Caufield. Using literary quotes from the text, have students examine Holden’s behavior throughout the novel and attempt to discern, which of the three illnesses presented: Clinical Depression, Bi Polar Disorder, or Schizophrenia, Holden might suffer from. Have them research the illness and find out what types of medicinal and therapeutic treatments are recommended, what the side effects of the treatments are and how the illness might manifest itself in a teenager.

    An interesting way to teach research skills, quote analysis, and text support all at the same time, this lesson will leave your students with insightful and intriguing opinions on a classic novel.


  • Photo by 50 Watts under CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

The Catcher in the Rye Lesson Plans

This series has unique lesson plans and assignments to teach J.D. Salinger's "The Catcher in the Rye". Includes a downloadable power point and assignments.
  1. What’s Wrong with Holden Caufield?
  2. Strikingly Similar? Benjamin Braddock and Holden Caufield
  3. They’re Playing Our Song… A Soundtrack for Catcher in the Rye
  4. Final Assessments for "The Catcher in the Rye"