The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield’s Mental Breakdown Sample Essay

J. D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye” portrays a troubled adolescent in New York City. Over the few yearss the fresh depicts. the male child displays his critical and unhealthy mentality. Finally he has a mental dislocation. Through depth psychology of Holden Caulfield. one may propose that Allie’s decease. societal development. and an individuality crisis are big lending factors in Holden’s mental dislocation.

Allie Caulfield is an of import individual to Holden and his decease affects him greatly. In response to his brother’s passing. Holden efforts to retrieve by utilizing defence mechanisms as a shield against world. The construct of defence mechanisms schemes for avoiding or cut downing baleful feelings such as fright and anxiety” ( Strickland 182 ) . While defence mechanisms are normal. healthy header tools. they may turn to be debatable when their use becomes accustomed. Holden appears to utilize several defence mechanisms in response to Allie’s decease. Additionally. he implements them into his day-to-day activities.

One of the defence mechanisms Holden employs is denial. Denial. as defined by Plotnik. is “refusing to acknowledge some anxiety-provoking event or piece of information” ( 437 ) . In Holden’s instance. he does non to the full accept Allie’s decease ; alternatively. he subconsciously remains in delial to avoid the hurting associated with this loss. Although he tells Phoebe. “I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? ” ( Salinger 171 ) Holden’s reactions do non reflect his claim. He speaks of and to Allie as though he is still alive. While admiting his brother’s decease on the surface. Holden does non to the full accept it. For case. as he stumbles along the pavements of New York City subsequent to sing Phoebe. he begins talking to Allie. inquiring for his brother to maintain him safe. By inquiring Allie for aid. Holden demonstrates his belief that Allie is present. non dead. At an earlier clip. when Phoebe challenges Holden to call one thing he truly likes. all he can react with is “I like Allie. ” While many feel fondness for a asleep friend or relation. the lone capable Holden can ab initio acknowledge to wishing is his dead brother. This. excessively. exemplefies Holden’s inability to accept Allie’s decease.

A 2nd. alien. and more uncommon defence mechanism Holden uses is arrested development. Fixation is a arrest of emotional development caused by some anxiousness producting event–such as a decease. The person will non lose any old developmental advancement. but his or her ripening will hold for a clip ( Strickland 170 ) . In the first chapter of Salinger’s book. Holden’s remarks seem to back up the thought that he uses this mechanism: “I was 16 so. and I’m 17 now. and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen” ( 9 ) . First. one should observe that Allie died when Holden was 13. By him stating “I act like I’m about 13. ” Holden corroborates the thought that he has non matured and lingers in the psychological province of a immature adolescent. This may be an of import factor in why he rejects mature relationships and desires to be “the backstop in the rye. ”

A 2nd facet impacting Holden’s personality every bit good as self-pride is his environment. Holden’s parents appear to raise him with a lax. permissive manner of parenting. Harmonizing to Plotnik. “permissive parents are less controlling and act with a non-punishing and accepting attitude toward their children’s urges. desires and actions” ( 413 ) . While his parents are merely merely introduced in the narrative. the inactive and accepting reaction Mrs. Caulfield has to Phoebe’s smoke supports the impression that the Caulfield family is under a permissive regulation as opposed to a stricter household. Permissive parenting seems to ensue in less achievement-minded kids who will non take duty for their behaviour. Holden seems to suit that profile absolutely. He remains wholly unmotivated in school and incriminations everything on others.

Peer credence besides has a large affect on Holden and his self-esteem. Self-esteem is chiefly based on two factors: Physical attraction and how good a individual relates to others. Holden find himself attractive. “I think I am rather sexy” ( Salinger 55 ) . Because he believes himself to be good looking. his visual aspect is non an issue. However. he tends to force others off ( likely accidentally ) . Therefore. his equals avoid or ignore him. Peer rejection instigates low self-esteem in Holden. ensuing in feelings of solitariness and depression in add-on to societal troubles. Throughout the narrative. Holden often mentions feeling down and lonely. He besides has jobs acquiring along with people. Few outside his household desire him about. An illustration of this is occurs when Holden meets with Luce. an old homework school familiarity. in a saloon and is blatantly cast off.

An at hand individuality crisis is another lending factor in Holden’s dislocation. Harmonizing to Plotnik. “Identity refers to how we describe ourselves and includes our values. ends. traits. involvements and motivations” ( 394 ) . Erik Erikson theorized about individuality by manner of “eight developmental periods during which an individual’s primary end is to fulfill desires associated with societal needs” ( Plotnik 393 ) . These phases span from babyhood to old age. During adolescence. Erikson views people in the psychosocial phase of individuality vs. function confusion.

This phase involves happening a sense of ego through test and mistake. If this phase is unsuccessfully completed. the stripling will see roll-confusion. ensuing in low self-esteem and societal backdown. These people will probably experience down. hold a desire for isolation and an uncomplete sense of world ( Sanford 153 ) . They may be viewed as being in the stage of individuality diffusion.

Identity vs. function confusion further divides into four phases in which a adolescent partakes to happen themself. They may exchange between any phase at a caprice and do non follow any peculiar order. The four phases are: moratorium. individuality foreclosure. individuality accomplishment. and individuality diffusion. They range from a fixed determination on the hereafter ( foreclosure ) . successfully holding personal values and beliefs ( accomplishment ) . experimentation via test and mistake ( moratorium ) . and eventually. the phase in which Holden resides ( Pinsker 154-155 ) .

Harmonizing to Erikson’s phases. Holden is in a province of individuality diffusion. Identity diffusion entails holding no existent sense of ego and non trying to happen 1. The adolescent wanders from crisis to crisis. ensuing in a deficiency of self-identity and no existent committedness to values or ends. They may besides experience down. desire isolation. and have suicidal inclinations. These traits identify in Holden through remarks like “It was truly dejecting. ” He besides mentions his desire for isolation:

I figured that I could acquire a occupation at a make fulling station somewhere…I didn’t attention what sort of occupation it was. though. Just so people didn’t cognize me and I didn’t know anybody. I thought what I’d do was. I’d pretend I was one of those deaf-and-dumb persons. That manner I wouldn’t have to hold any blasted stupid useless conversation with anybody. If anybody wanted to state me something. they’d have to compose it on a piece of paper and jostle it over to me…and so I’d be through with holding conversations for the remainder of my life. ( Salinger 198 )

His yearning for privacy is an consequence of his individuality crisis. Not merely do Holden’s emotions embody Erikson’s phase of individuality diffusion. but he besides appears to hold the mentality of such. He maintains no existent ends or aspirations. Even by the terminal of the novel. he does non show any true dreams for the hereafter. noticing. “A batch of people. particularly this one psychoanalyst cat they have here. supports inquiring me if I’m traveling to use myself when I go back to school following September. It’s such a stupid inquiry. in my sentiment. I mean how do you cognize what you’re traveling to make till you make it? ” ( Salinger 213 ) Holden still does non hold any definate aspirations. He may expect seeking difficult in school. but he has no existent self-expectations or ends. Through these illustrations. one can clearly see how Holden resides in Erikson’s phase of individuality diffusion.

Holden Caulfield has multiple issues made evident throughout the book. By analysing his character and actions. he demonstrates his unhealthy mentality. He seems to roll through New York without and aim and remains critical of everyone. In amount. Allie’s decease. societal development and an individuality crisis are great contributers to Holden’s mental dislocation.

Plants Cited:

Plotnik. Rod. Introduction to Psychology. 5th edition. Belmont: Thomson. 1999.

Pinsker. Anne and Sanford Pinsker. Understanding The Catcher in the Rye. Connecticut: Greenwood. 1999. 149-155.

Salinger. J. D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little. Brown. 1991.

Strickland. Bonnie. Ed. The Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. 2nd erectile dysfunction. Detroit: Gale. 2001.


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