If "phony" is the most frequently repeated word in The Catcher in the Rye, "crazy," "madman," and "depressed" rank close behind it. Because Holden is the narrator of the novel, and because he seems in so many ways to be a typical teenager battling typical teenage issues of identity, it seems like he is using these words for effect. In other words, when he says he's crazy he seems to mean that he's acting oddly, or inconsistently, or stupidly, but not that he's actually going insane. And when he says he wishes he were dead, it likewise seems at first as if he's using the phrase as a teenage expression to make his emotions seem as intense to you as they seem to him. But as the novel progresses, it begins to become clear through hints and an intensification of Holden's own language that Holden really is on the verge of losing it, and really is seriously thinking of killing himself as the only way out of this world he can't control or understand.
Madness, Depression, Suicide ThemeTracker
Madness, Depression, Suicide Quotes in The Catcher in the Rye
It made me even more depressed when she said that.
"Yes I do. Yes I do. Sure I do. Don't say that. Why the hell do you say that?"
"Because you don't. You don't like any schools. You don't like a million things. You don't."
"I do! That's where you're wrong—that's exactly where you're wrong! Why the hell do you have to say that?" I said. Boy, was she depressing me. "Because you don't," she said. "Name one thing."
"One thing? One thing I like?" I said. "Okay."
The trouble was, I couldn't concentrate too hot. Sometimes it's hard to concentrate.