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Mental Illness And Mental Disorders In Catcher In The Rye By J.D. Salinger

2615 words - 11 pages

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about one in four American adults suffer from a mental disorder. This means that 57.7 out of 217.8 million people over the age of 18 are ill; never mind that mental illnesses are the leading cause of disability in Canada and the United States. Holden Caulfield, the controversial main character of J.D Salinger’s novel Catcher in the Rye, spends much of the book wandering through the streets of New York City. Kicked out of boarding school for the umpteenth time, he does many odd things: he calls a prostitute, tries to befriend a taxi driver, drinks with middle aged women, and sneaks into his own house in the middle of the night. While many ...view middle of the document...

Just the thought of his brother’s passing had driven Holden to act out physically and to bring harm not only to himself, but to the windows in his house. “"I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don’t blame them. I really don’t. I slept in the garage the night he dies, and I broke all the god dam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but me hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn’t do it. It was a very stupid thing to do, I’ll admit it, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t even know Allie” (Salinger 39). This quote shows that while Holden knows his action was “stupid” and not well thought out, he does not know that he is allowed to grieve. However, by not grieving and properly working out his emotions, he is repressing his feelings. While his attempts to live in denial work in the short term, he ends up burdening himself with several mental ailments in the end.
The second symptom of PTSD includes not being able to focus on things such as school, the opposite sex, or on one’s own thoughts. “Another symptom of PTSD is present in the episode with the prostitute, where Holden says, “I felt more depressed than sexy, if you want to know the truth” (Bryfonski 15). Holden hires a prostitute to come in his room, but oddly, instead of making a sexual advance like a normal hormonal boy would, he just gauchely sits there. He is not able to focus on the matter at hand: the girl in his bedroom. His mind wanders and he just feels depressed by the fact that a young woman is “throwing her life away” to be a call girl. Holden also has problems focusing on retrieving information from his memory. “Some things are hard to remember. I’m thinking now of when Stradlater got back from his date with Jane. I mean I can’t remember exactly what I was doing when I heard his goddam stupid footsteps coming down the corridor. I probably was still looking out the window, but I swear I can’t remember. I was so damn worried, that’s why. When I really worry about something, I don’t just fool around” (Salinger 40). Holden is trying adamantly to retain the delicate details Stradlater’s post-date escapades, but he just does not know for sure what took place. He also mentions being “damn worried”; this leads the reader to believe that he may be suffering from acute anxiety as well.
Lastly, Holden shows avoidance in his measures. Holden is afraid to grow up, because he feels that when someone is rushed into maturity, bad things happen. Holden was forced to grow up when he lost Allie, and this makes his believe that “ignorance is bliss”, and that it is better to lie to yourself and to be a child forever than to grow up and experience pain. “It is only in Holden Caulfield’s unique world that ducks brave the winter or are hauled in trucks to zoos. It should strike...

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