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Holden Caulfield's Mental Condition in The Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger

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Where do the ducks go during the Winter when the water is frozen? In The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, the character, Holden Caulfield, has an underlying mental condition. He failed out of four schools; he saw his friend commit suicide; and his younger brother died of cancer. These life-changing experiences paved the way for Holden’s insecure and unstable life. By his narration, Holden hints at his disorder throughout the book without fully explaining his condition. Holden’s many insecurities, his teetering on the edge of childhood and adulthood, and his irrational ideas help the reader realize that Holden has a mental problem.
Holden has several insecurities that are displayed throughout the book that hint at his condition. The protagonist’s insecurities are demonstrated in his judgment of others. He criticizes adults on their flaws as he thinks he is the only rational adult in the world, describing all adults as superficial and more importantly “phony.” Holden once referred to his headmaster as a phony when he was talking about his daughter Selma, “She probably knew what a phony slob he was.” (p. 3) Phoebe, Holden’s sister points out, that he does not only hate adults, he hates everything. Holden cannot name one thing he enjoys to satisfy his sister, indicating that he is dissatisfied with his life. Phoebe notes, “You don’t like anything that’s happening.” (p. 169) As Holden attempts to prove her wrong, she realizes something, “You can’t even name one thing.” (p. 171) Holden’s insecurities are a shining example of his mental condition.
Behavior and relationships with others are a huge hint at Holden’s insecurity. His interactions with women are varied but lead back to his mental disorder. Holden paid for a pro...


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... Holden would have seen that Mr. Antolini was worried about Holden and was comforting him in a paternal way. Holden’s mental disorder clearly has to do with irrational decisions and ideas.
Using Holden’s subtle evidence, you could conclude at the end of the book that Holden has a mental disorder and had a nervous breakdown. His insecurities, and confusion about childhood versus adulthood, and oddities help us reach this decision. Mental disorders and nervous breakdowns are often seen in teenagers today with their busy schedules and stressful lives. In Holden’s time, psychiatric treatments were frowned upon but today it is a common source of recovery. Adults and teenagers alike need to stay focused on their blessings and good fortune. In today’s world this is a monumental, if not difficult, action to take. Like the ducks, we must sometimes fly to a happier place.


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