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Are Sarcastic People More Depressed Than Others? – Op-Ed Piece


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We got a literary meme, and a fact about literature, and almost a read about how a classic book answered a very difficult question, one that many of us may not like, even now.

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Literary Fact

An estimated 755,755 new books are published every year. As of mid-2017, there are an estimated 134,399,411 total published books in the world.


Are Sarcastic People More Depressed Than Others? – Op-Ed Piece

Sarcasm is one of life’s true joys that a person can control no matter what the situation holds in front of them. There is always a way to rip apart the scenario, whether the president is making a speech (he didn’t write), an actor in a show overdoing it, or just two co-workers chilling having lunch. Sarcasm presents the reality that the world is not as ideal as it could be, and it is flawed despite our many efforts to change, manipulate and alter it, and the masses can then use this function of recognizing the proper placement for sarcasm for multiple reasons.

First off, we can all get by the dreadful lives we live in, where we are uncertain of the truth, don’t really like the people who run it, and are underpaid (sorry, too much?) We can manage this wondrous life of meaning, where we love the system and are all adequately compensated for our work efforts if we all learn to laugh at ourselves a little more. Take it easy, bro. What you think is so important and pressing, and the end-all-be-all is probably not that big of a deal. Like when you die, God won’t bring up about it.

I imagine that after seeing Saint Peter, God has a sort of checklist that he would go over with me. “Let’s see do you remember that time you sat in traffic for a few extra moments? Or how about that time that you had to wait in line at the store because no one was around helping you for that item you didn’t buy? Do you recall being mad at someone over a minor thing that they had no control over and were not responsible for? Yes? Oh… you thought that is what I was judging you on.” He closes his book. “Wow. You are so off. Like those people that didn’t believe in my one son. It’s like I sent you the guy that can save you all, he helps you by overcoming death, and still some of you are like, ‘Nah, that is not real.’ It’s get to a certain point with people, where I gotta just say ‘fuck it, they will never embrace my love.’ I don’t know what you people want from me sometimes. I acted mean and ruthless, and then most of you said no. I sent my son, who was loving and caring, and then most of you said no, again. I think some of you just don’t want any of my love. It’s like I have to remind people that I am God, you know, the thing that literally spoke the world into existence.”

For some reason, God would then go on a long rant, and I am forced to be quiet during the whole thing. This is God we are talking about; I am not going to interrupt, no matter the length of the rant.

Humor bumps that ego that many of us carry around with us, like a trophy, down a few pegs. You aren’t as good as a worker as you think. You aren’t that great of a husband (or wife), or a friend, or anything really. Sorry, but there is a way to poke fun at you, no matter how great you are, whether you want to admit it. But go right on, carrying that burden of your own ego as if it matters. It’s not like you are going to answer to me when this is all over with anyway. (Hint: that is God, you’ll answer to him. Unless you want to take the chance that there is nothing after this, then hey, that is on you, buddy. It’s a hell of a risk, but you do you.)

The second reason sarcasm is a hit more than that summer song you can’t stop playing is that we get to mock those that run this damn place. The rich people with all their cool cars and clothes and the politicians, who I am sure, just so happen to have cool cars and clothes too (no coincidence there), And they get a little taste of what we, normal people with our plan cars and clothes, all deal with when we treat them with the same sarcasm as we would anyone else. You aren’t better than me because you live in a bigger house or drive a fancy car cause I can rip you apart as much as the people I work with. Sarcasm has no status boundary. It is not restricted to a culture or a place. Everyone can use it. And it’s free, which is great since the prices for stuff are crazy high. Reward programs don’t mean anything when I can’t even afford the item, am I right? We all enjoy this free aspect of sarcasm. The wit of the spoken word gives power to those that would otherwise not have any. The business owner makes all the money, decides to hire and fire people, and controls how you work, but can that stop you from making a few wisecracks about him behind his back, or if you are feeling really adventurous, to his face. No, it can’t. He is really cheap. He doesn’t know how to interview someone. And he can’t run the company for his life and is lucky that we sell a product everyone loves. As someone I know always says of a certain franchise, “They make money despite themselves.” That can be the slogan for most companies today. “We screw our workers. We treat them like a number, and we don’t even give them minimum wage. We are dysfunctional, and the workplace we run has a lackluster culture that is uninspired, and we are surprised that people still show up. Oh, and we are one of the largest franchises in the nation. We are everywhere, despite our poor management and treatment of our employees. We make money despite ourselves. We don’t know how we do it either.” – Every business in America.

Some of you may even feel this wit is needed as some sort of justification towards the social class difference, so you feel no shame as you rip your boss a new one. Even those that are empathetic and try to help you can’t escape your sharp remarks. They don’t give you a bonus; you are allowed to mock the guy’s hair. A good leader should show that he is human and what better way than to laugh at himself, and that is through the sarcasm of others.

There is an interesting observation that one of the most iconic books of all time made about sarcasm; it is actually bad. If it goes too far, the person may lose it and end up in an institution where his brother is the only one that goes to see him. Sarcasm is a deceptive tool that many of us fall prey to as we laugh at the speaker, not understanding the truth in their words. This wit hides some pain that the person only knows and society doesn’t see because we are all too busy laughing at his one-liner. Once that person is done mocking the situation, there is actually a certain sadness or hurt that they don’t know how to deal with, and they can’t tell anybody about it since those people view them as just being funny. Then, the individual may take extreme measures to cure their hidden feelings, potentially hurting themselves and others. (Is this a bad time to mention that a person can always pray to God when they are sad? That He is always there for you, no matter how sad or alone you feel? Too much? Fine, I’ll let C.S. Lewis handle that stuff. I don’t smoke anyway.)

The book I am talking about is The Catcher In The Rye, the young adult book about the wiseass kid, Holden, walking around New York City, being a bitch, and generally just complaining about life. This book has become a classic novel for a multitude of reasons. First off, the writer of the book, J.D. Salinger, was pretty damn good at composing a story and sentences. If you like classic short stories, I’d suggest looking into some of his, since he was very good at that as well. Then the book is the first young adult book that took off and became very popular with kids of that demographic. For the most part, there wasn’t much of an audience for young adults before the book, at least nothing that distinct. Now today, it is all the rage, and every literary agent and publisher will try to convert your story into a book for those yet to be adults, but that wasn’t the case back when Salinger was around. Kids were viewed as mini-adults, and young adults were seen as adults. Basically, the world had adults as Dr. Evil and kids as Mini-Me. What did we make of sharks with freaking laser beams? I, unfortunately, don’t know. The third reason the book is a classic is that the book is a perfect example of an unreliable narrator and stream of consciousness. The kid, Holden, narrates the whole thing in a very biased and immature fashion. This technique is one of the most copied by many writers, kind of going wherever the wind takes them. Along with Hemingway’s style that had an unspoken story within a story, Salinger’s writing style is still very prevalent in literature. The narrator isn’t talking like he knows all that is going on, he is talking like you are taking the journey with him, and this technique, done right, is one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful forms of writing. It gives the reader a level of intimacy that other forms don’t.

The kid and also narrator, Holden, is very relatable to most teenagers in that he takes no responsibility towards his actions; he feels like the world is wrong with its views (that he is not an expert in, by the way) and finds it much easier to mock a problem than actually fix it. In a nutshell, the teenager acts like how many of us acted like when we were teenagers. (I am assuming teenagers or kids don’t read this. Kids and teenagers don’t read this, right? Boy, if they do, I really better stop cursing so much, but I digress)

Holden is a jerk. He is completely a sarcastic prick. When you read it the first time, you feel like the character is speaking your thoughts, but if you read the book a second time, you wonder if you are even supposed to like the character. His very popularity begs the question, “Should a character be likable?” Should an author create a character that the readers enjoy being with as they take that journey? It seems almost silly to create a style of writing where the reader is supposed to get to know the character only to learn that they hate that character. I will write about this idea in the future, but for now, let’s talk about the sarcasm this kid has, in bundles, apparently.

Can the kid give it a break? Everything is a joke to this son of a bitch, that you can’t help but wonder if the author took it all seriously. When he is at school, at the park (talking of the ducks, of all things), at the club, with the prostitute, he has a remark about everything (like what most teenagers would have), And you honestly just want to smack the annoying little kid as he goes from place to place. This is coming from me; by the way, half of what I write is sarcastic, but even I thought the character overdid it in that book. If you are sarcastic all the time, the audience never knows when you are to be taken seriously. Comedians have this problem. I came to laugh at your jokes; I don’t want to hear about your rant on the political landscape or the cancel culture. You joke about most things; how do I know when you are serious? It’s tough on them, but fair too. For Holden, it is very unfortunate.

As Holden is annoying you and everyone around him in the book, there is no mention of his state of mind. Nothing says that he is a kid that needs help. In fact, most of the readers love the book because they see him as the kid who doesn’t need help. He is fighting the fight that they want to fight. He is fighting a system that doesn’t care about rejects and losers like him. He is standing up for every small guy out there, saying what they can’t say about the world that doesn’t like them.

This book, whether it meant to or not (remember Salinger didn’t write the book for young adults, he wrote it for adults,) asks the question of sarcasm pertaining to a functional mind. Is it possible that there is a correlation between the two? Are the wiseasses depressed? Do the comedians feel sad? Then we can even ask, why is the guy that is sarcastic so upset about everything? (I’m not gonna say it’s a lack of God, but yeah, it’s totally that.)

This will, from my perspective, always be an ongoing debate since we feel uncomfortable claiming that the clown is really sad on the inside. The comedian is not happy. Those who make us laugh should be happy and have a sense of peace; at least, that is what our logic of the situation says. So why do we consistently see those jokesters in dark places? How can someone who brings so much joy to this world be so down on their life? The contradiction is one that none of us like to ask when we are laughing and enjoying ourselves, and even the humorous individual avoids the hard topic; it is only when a dramatic moment, like the death of the individual, where we start to wonder of their own mental state.

Now, these are pretty tough questions for any book to address, not only a young adult book, and not only does the book present the questions, it even gave an answer. If a person is too sarcastic, that means they are actually in need of help and should seek some counseling. The same kid who has something to say about everything during the book is in an institution for having a nervous breakdown at the end of it. Wow, that is really saying something about someone’s own state of mind. Apparently, all the sarcasm at the school, at the park, at the club, or with the prostitute didn’t do anything for the poor kid.

The amazing part is how unusual the ending is towards the reader’s attachment to the character. You don’t expect it. You are rooting for the kid. You may even see yourself as the kid, which I know that many readers have done over the years. And how are you rewarded in the end? Does the character win by going back to school? Does he get the girl he sought after early in the book? Does he reconcile problems he has with his parents? No, he loses. He is sent away as the problemed child that he is seen by society. It is almost like what I said Seinfeld did in its finale, making the main characters go to jail (and lose). It’s completely unexpected to what you were reading up till that point.

When you reach the end of the book, you are told that you didn’t read the right book. You are wrong in what you just read; like how the White Stripes said, you were listening to the wrong song all along. This isn’t a coming-of-age book about the kid growing up and learning and becoming a better person, but a depressed, lonely kid that needs help before he loses it. And the sad thing is that we are all witnesses to his breakdown. We are no better than anyone else in the story as we think the kid is just a teenager acting like a teenager. Even today, many say that they don’t like the character, heck you can even go back to what I said of him earlier, and that may be missing the whole point of the character. Holden isn’t about you liking him, but understanding the help that he clearly doesn’t get in the book. By never addressing that the kid needs help, whether you hate him for being a jerk or love him for being like you, you are missing that the story you saw was about a kid reaching out for a hand and not getting it. Not from the people in the story, not even from you or me. After his nervous breakdown, the character needs to be put away for all of us to think differently of him. Even then, some of you may go back to the original point; you hate him for being a jerk, you love him for his wit. Even then, some won’t get what the character was going through. Damn, that is really deep to put in a young adult book, and frankly, it’s really sad about us as a society.

I’ll end this article with this; Salinger was notorious for not wanting to talk about the book as he got older. As if he was ashamed of what he wrote. Like he would have taken it back if he could. The guy wrote the best book ever (it’s not, but you know what I mean) and didn’t even think of going back to the character. He didn’t write sequels or anything about it. Not even a commentary on the book’s impact. Why? Well, it could be that he saw how we all took the book and made it something completely, like what we do with all art., and couldn’t deal with it. Maybe he originally intended on writing an adult book about a kid having a nervous breakdown, and instead, the world viewed it as a young adult book revolutionary with its writing technique and relatable character. We are all so fixated on the humor of the kid that we all fail to acknowledge that we aren’t as much like the kid as we are like everyone else in the book; apathetic towards a sad individual who is in desperate need of some help. (I bet you all wouldn’t mind if I talked like C.S. Lewis now, huh? Cause this article got really sad all of a sudden)

Since I don’t want to end this on a bad note, can we all take a second to laugh at the schools for their contradictory stance on C.S. Lewis’s works? They teach The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, the most famous C.S. Lewis book, which elementary school kids can read, and yet they are afraid of anyone even mentioning The Bible, which is the book that C.S. Lewis famously wrote about too. You can theoretically read about the Narnia book in school and then, a few years later, present a report on C.S. Lewis’s views on Christianity and then get in trouble for it. Come on, schools, what are you doing here? You know that pain in the ass kid may have been on to something when he said they were phonies.

Is The Catcher In The Rye right in their evaluation of sarcasm? Is it a coping mechanism by some? Perhaps? By expressing the thoughts of an individual up until their very own breakdown, the author presents us with an intriguing question; was the kid using sarcasm as a way to cope with his eventual collapse? It was definitely saying more than many ever thought a wiseass teenager could ever say, and it is still regarded as one of the best that literature has to offer for this very reason. Unfortunately, even to this day, some may have missed the point that the author was trying to say.


Did You Know?

J.D. Salinger had an actual nervous breakdown during his life. He was hospitalized after suffering a nervous breakdown in Nuremberg in 1945 after seeing some very bloody battles on D-Day and in Luxembourg.



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Greg Luti is an editor and blogger on His favorite writers are Robert Frost and Charles Bukowski. He enjoys reading up on history, watching comedies, and playing video games, when he is not writing down a few notes for his next piece. He started this blog out of his love for literature and hopes that the reader shares that same passion.


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