Holden Caulfield and Hamlet
Holden Caulfield and Hamlet have both lost someone precious to them, and are dealing with deep depression. Holden deals with his depression by pretending it doesn't exist. Holden blames everyone else in the world for things that are happening to him without realizing that so many of life's it falls are his own fault. Hamlet is so depressed he is asking himself whether or not it would be easier to simply die. In his famous “to be or not to be” speech he is considering whether it is worth it to “grunt and sweat under a weary life” or to die “in that sleep of death what dreams may come”. Holden Caulfield doesn't have life or death questions the cousins he is manic enough not to realize what a spiral of depression and anxiety his life has become.
Holden and Hamlet both see humans as weak who think only for themselves, lie, cheat, and embellish their stories to look better towards others. J. D Salinger and Shakespeare both wrote a story following a narrator who is untrustworthy. Holden and Hamlet also suffer from not being supported from those around them leaving them to slowly become crazy. Holden's parents shuffle him between boarding schools and in Hamlet Ophelia lives every time her mouth is open.
Holden obsesses over every phony interaction he sees. After entering Ernie's bar Holden instantly starts the phony call out. He spots that you can't see the piano player's hands but you can look at the giant mirror to see his big old face. “he was putting all these dumb, show-offy ripples in the high notes” (pg 84). Holden then looks around and looks at the crowd as “they go mad” (pg 84). Holden almost gets sick from the whole event, after noticing the lie that the whole bar is, in Holden words it is a phony. Holden reacts by wanting to buy a drink for ol Ernie. If Ernie ever did show up for that drink Holden would of called him on the phony playing, and lying to all the people in the crowd. Hamlet uses the line “Thus conscience does make cowards of us all”, compare this to Ernie who cannot even play a piano to a crowd. Hamlet also believes in calling out phonies when he tells Ophelia “get thee to a nunnery” he is really calling her a slut.
Both Hamlet and Holden have lost a loved one. Not being able to finally see Allie dead Holden has a lot of sadness packed inside of him, and throughout the book he will randomly cry, he could just be going crazy. It has permanently affected how he will act, always feeling like he should be dead, he was not worthy to live but rather sacrifice his life to let Allie live on. Holden talks to his dead brother “telling him to go home and get his bike” (98) acting as if he is still alive and can hear him. Holden makes increasingly bad decisions because he cannot deal with his sadness over his brother's death.
The irrational behavior of both Hamlet and Holden can be attributed to mental illness and the paralyzing effects of over analyzing every situation in their life without taking any action to stop. Holden ends up in an asylum. Hamlet has a better handle on his existence and realizes that “we are arrant knaves”, meaning nobody can really be trusted.