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. …show more content…
Holden’s date with Sally Hayes exhibited his difficulty at cooperating with others. At first he gives us a dire impression of Sally, “I wasn’t too crazy about her, but I’d known her for years.” (p. 105) Later, he wants to marry Sally and says he is in love with her. The biggest mystery of all when it comes to women is with Jane Gallagher. Constantly mentioning Jane, Holden recalls playing checkers with her before he got sent to boarding school. When his roommate, Stradlater, has a date with Jane, Holden asks him a peculiar question, “Did you ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row?” (p. 42) Holden, jealous of Stradlater’s date with Jane, longs to see Jane but never has the courage to call her. Interactions with other people especially women perplex and overwhelm Holden. He therefore resorts to isolation, illustrating a characteristic of his mental state. In the course of the story, Holden is suspended between adulthood and childhood. Several of his actions and words show evidence of his confusion between adults and children. Admitting to his immaturity, Holden says, “I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen.” (p. 9) Sunny, the prostitute is an example of Holden’s attempt to be an adult, but realizing he is stuck in childhood. Another example is when he asks his cab driver where the ducks in Central Park go during the Winter when the ice is
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