An Analysis Of Holden Caulfield


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The mind of a teenager is a very complex organ that has various sections, each specifically designed to deal with an assortment of different problems which that person happens to be encountering. Although this very powerful organ is capable of handling a plethora of different tasks, it can fail when faced with a great amount of problems in such a short amount of time. Thus, in order to determine what is wrong with an individual, one must study the events that would have the greatest toll on the human mind. In regards to the individual being a teenager, the different range of events is narrowed down even more. In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield is notably affected by death, social rejection and abuse, and abandonment.

Death is one of the worst events that an individual can experience and in Holden's case, death is very prevalent. The most impacting death that affects Holden is the death of his brother Allie. This is evident when Phoebe asks Holden to name just one thing he likes, to which he responds "I like Allie." I said. And I like doing what I'm doing right now. Sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff" (Salinger 11). Holden constantly mentions how much he misses and loves Allie which lead the reader to interpret that Allie's death changes Holden for the worst. From what Holden mentions to Phoebe, the reader can also see that he likes being able to discuss and let out all of the feelings he has been holding in. In addition, Holden's worry about what happens to the ducks and fish in Central Park during winter time shows how death has been a constant concern in his mind. His worry about death is also show when he mentions he wants to be a Catcher in the Rye to save the kids lives if they fall off the cliff.

The society in which Holden lives in has a great affect on him, in that he feels alone and abused. From the very first chapter in this novel to the end, Holden is alone, watching others having fun. His unique personality makes him a socially awkward character, which is best seen in his encounter with the prostitute. Holden is also physically abused in this seen when he gets punched and later on in the novel by Mr. Anatoli. In Jenniffer Scuhuessler's article, she mentions that "Holden would not have felt so alone if he were growing up today. After all, Mr. Salinger was writing long before the rise of a multibillion-dollar cultural-entertainment complex largely catering to the taste of teenage boys." This is true because during the mid-twentieth century, there was not exactly a "norm" for teenage boys to follow. Holden's case is even worse since he was constantly moving for a different school, never being able to actually settle down and blend in with other kids.

From the first school Holden goes to he feels abandonment, whether it was by his parents or from the kids around him. The abandonment by Holden feels from his parents is so strong that the reader hears very little about them and when Holden does say something it is usually negative. Lisa Privtera agreement with this statement is shown when she says "Family has failed Holden. That is, all except his ten-year-old sister, Phoebe". The constant rejections Holden experiences, whether it is by the phone or in person, are so dreadful that Holden can only interpret them to the other person being a "phony". Towards the end of this novel, Holden basically gives up on trying to fight abandonment so he decides that he will live out in the West all alone as a deaf-mute.

Death, social rejection, abuse, and abandonment take a heavy toll on Holden, especially since their effects occur in the span of eight years. His "diagnosis" can best relate to the post- traumatic stress disorder that soldiers face after returning from war due to the similarity in symptoms. The first symptom, frightened thoughts, is easily visible towards the end of the novel when Holden speaks to Allie because he is scared that he will disappear while crossing the street. The second symptom, hyper arousal, is present throughout the entire novel and is the cause for Holden's social rejection. In addition, he is always having trouble sleeping and is always in an angry mood. Lastly, indifference and avoidance are very prevalent as Holden is alone a significant amount of the novel in addition to the carelessness for his future.

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