Essay, Research Paper: Catcher In The Rye

Literature: Catcher in The Rye

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Throughout the novel, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield's
actions conveyed his deteriorating mental health. Holden endured a troubled
childhood and adolescence. Several years prior to the opening of the novel,
Holden's younger brother, Allie, died of leukemia. Since then, various boarding
schools, most recently Pency Prep, expelled Holden because of his poor grades
and lack of effort. Instead of confronting his parents with the news of his
latest failure, Holden left school and spent several days in New York City.
During Holden's stay in the city, he exhibited psychological traits not common
to a sixteen-year-old, such as a preoccupation with death and major
communication problems. Because of these traits, Holden Caulfield belonged in a
mental institution. Throughout the novel, Holden demonstrated an intense
preoccupation with death. For instance, Holden angered Maurice, Sunny's boss,
because Holden denied owing Sunny money that Maurice claimed Holden owed. Out of
cruelty, Maurice punched Holden in the stomach. In reaction to the blow, Holden
acted like a wounded movie hero. Pretending to die because of a simple punch
reflected Holden's abnormal thoughts. He grossly exaggerated the situation,
indicating his mental instability. In addition, Holden displayed a great
paranoia toward illness. While walking in Central park on a cold night, Holden's
wet hair began to freeze. Holden convinced himself that he would soon catch
pneumonia and die, simply because of his wet hair. One does not usually
associate wet hair with death, however Holden immediately made the mental leap
between the two. Finally, Holden did not accept the reality of his brother's
death, which was indicated during one of Holden's visits to Allie's grave.
During the visit, it began to rain. All the other visitors ran for the
protection of their cars, but Holden felt depressed because Allie could not
escape the rain. When he saw the visitors leaving, Holden thought how they could
go some place fore dinner, but Allie could only lie in his grave. Holden
continued to believe that his brother felt emotions. He repeatedly gave Allie
the characteristics of a living being, proving that he never fully accepted
Allie's death. Obviously, Holden's many unusual thoughts regarding death
signified that Holden needed mental help. Holden's communication problems also
displayed his need to live in a mental institution. For example, on the train to
New York City, Holden conversed with Mrs. Morrow. Holden spoke with the woman
because he desperately sought attention and felt the need to communicate with
someone. He chose to communicate with Mrs. Morrow because she would not remain a
permanent figure in Holden's life. By lying to Mrs. Morrow, Holden remained
detached and independent from reality. Holden could not face reality, hence his
lying, and could not communicate with permanent people in his life. Afterwards,
while walking in Central Park, Holden decided to move out west, and live closer
to nature. He decided to pretend that he suffered from deafness and muteness to
minimize his contact with people. Holden did not want to communicate with people
because he wished to detach himself from society. For him, this provided a way
in which to escape reality. Similarly, Holden expressed a desire to move to
Vermont in order to detach himself from society. He wished to sever most
contacts with people and eliminate nearly all communications. Undoubtedly,
Holden belonged in a mental institution because of his poor communication
skills. Holden Caulfield's abnormal thoughts about death and illness, as well as
his poor communication skills gave reason to place Holden in a mental
institution. His experiences and thoughts in New York City definitively proved
this idea. These included Holden's encounters with people, such as Mrs. Morrow
and Maurice, and his reactions to different situations, demonstrated by his
immediate thought of death in connection to wet hair. Holden developed into a
mentally instable person because of his troubled childhood and adolescence.
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