The Catcher in the Rye: Holden Caulfield's Mental Breakdown

1384 Words Nov 25th, 2006 6 Pages
J.D. Salinger 's "The Catcher in the Rye" portrays a troubled teen in New York City. Over the few days the novel depicts, the boy displays his critical and unhealthy mindset. Eventually he has a mental breakdown. Through psychoanalysis of Holden Caulfield, one may suggest that Allie 's death, social development, and an identity crisis are large contributing factors in Holden 's mental breakdown.

Allie Caulfield is an important person to Holden and his death affects him greatly. In response to his brother 's passing, Holden attempts to recover by using defense mechanisms as a shield against reality. The concept of defense mechanisms strategies for avoiding or reducing threatening feelings such as fear and anxiety" (Strickland 182). While
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Because he believes himself to be good looking, his appearance is not an issue. However, he tends to push others away (probably unintentionally). Therefore, his peers avoid or ignore him. Peer rejection instigates low self-esteem in Holden, resulting in feelings of loneliness and depression in addition to social difficulties. Throughout the story, Holden frequently mentions feeling depressed and lonely. He also has problems getting along with people. Few outside his family desire him around. An example of this is occurs when Holden meets with Luce, an old prep school acquaintance, in a bar and is blatantly cast off.

An impending identity crisis is another contributing factor in Holden 's breakdown. According to Plotnik, "Identity refers to how we describe ourselves and includes our values, goals, traits, interests and motivations" (394). Erik Erikson theorized about identity by way of "eight developmental periods during which an individual 's primary goal is to satisfy desires associated with social needs" (Plotnik 393). These stages span from infancy to old age. During adolescence, Erikson views people in the psychosocial stage of identity vs. role confusion.

This stage involves finding a sense of self through trial and error. If this stage is unsuccessfully completed, the adolescent will experience roll-confusion, resulting in low self-esteem and social withdrawal. These people will likely feel
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