The Catcher In The Rye By J.D. Salinger

1698 words - 7 pages

J.D Salinger writes from personal experience in his novel, The Catcher in the Rye. The American author lived in New York City and attended a Manhattan public school for most of his adolescence before attending a boarding school that he soon failed out of. His experiences were a major part in not only the plot of his novel, but in building the character of Holden Caulfield. As the male protagonist in this coming of age novel, Holden Caulfield was faced with several obstacles to overcome. During his journey he deals with stress, anxiety, and difficult decisions while he was exposed to prostitutes, thieves, financial difficulty, and other foreign aspects of this unfamiliar reality. During this journey, he disputes himself by attempting to protect the innocence of the youth around him while he makes obvious his ceaseless determination to reach adulthood prematurely. In this contradiction, his bipolar desires lead him to mental instability from an already questionable mental state. In The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger explores the complexity of mental illness through the male protagonist, Holden Caulfield, during his impossible mission of preserving the innocence of others.
Throughout the novel Holden Caulfield deals with a complex variety of emotions that lead to a mental breakdown. In the beginning of the novel he introduces the story as a series of past events. “I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy.” (p. 1). By the end of the novel the reader can assume he is revisiting the events from a mental institution or rehabilitation center. “I could probably tell you what I did after I got home, and how I got sick and all…A lot of people, especially this psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if I’m going to apply myself when I go back to school.” (p. 213). The overall effect of the recent events had led to his mental instability. It has been argued that Holden already had earlier mental problems before his adventure into New York City alone. His younger brother’s death, his exile out of New York into many boarding schools, and his older brother and idol abandoning Holden for his own dreams in California could have led to his condition. This repetition of abandonment could have resulted in feelings of loneliness. “I was crying and all. I don’t know why, but I was. I guess it was because I was feeling so damn depressed and lonesome.” (p. 153). These feelings of depression and loneliness could be the underlying cause of his mental breakdown. It could also be the reason for his determination to grow up prematurely. In a way, his being on his own for so long allows him to already portray himself as an adult. In another view, his laziness in school and constant failing out could be his mind subconsciously trying to maintain his own innocence. This contradiction of his conscious and subconscious...

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