From the start of his story to the end, Holden Caulfield frequently acknowledged his lack of mental maturity. However, because of this immaturity, events he experienced developed him greatly. The most pivotal moment took place when Holden was talking to his little sister about what he’d like to be: “I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around– nobody big, I mean–except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff.
What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff–I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. ” (Salinger 191). This shaped the novel by revealing Holden’s idealistic view of children, in contrast to his negative view of the adult world; additionally, it exposed the extent of his psychological issues. Throughout his odyssey, Holden greatly admired children’s purity and instinctive kindness.
He often referred to his younger brother Allie and his sister Phoebe, specifically mentioning the hospitality with which they treated Holden. Phoebe’s kindness, in part, is why Holden made such an effort to visit their apartment after getting kicked out of school. He might have seen children as a safe haven from his perceived harshness of the world, which would explain why Holden was at ease whenever he spent time with them. On the contrary, he was tense and anxious whenever he was with adults.
As expected from the strong relationship he had with his younger brother, Holden experienced a large amount of loss after Allie died: “I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. ” (Salinger 44). The experience was likely the start to Holden’s disconnection with reality, as it was decimating for him; it is plausible that he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder because of this. His parents likely worsened his issue was by sending him off to a boarding school instead of dealing with his emotions at home.
Holden’s extensive idealization of children was because of his belief that all kids are pure, mostly due to his past experiences with his younger siblings. Holden wants to take on the unrealistic profession of being the ‘Catcher in the Rye’, because he wants to preserve the purity he sees. The circumstances concerning his younger brother’s death caused him to thoroughly believe his “truth’. Allie, although having been very young when he died, was exceptionally smart and kind; Holden fully loved his sibling. Holden never had the opportunity to see Allie grow into adulthood.
Holden’s assumption was that Allie would have had the same traits exhibited during childhood. He later began to apply this logic to all children, implying that every child has the potential for purity as an adult. Holden never mentioned a negative experience involving a child, compounding on his assumption. His younger sister Phoebe showed Holden kindness as well, further cementing his belief. While he may not have been faulty in his views of children, the idealization he made in his head skewed his view of adults and consequently his view of life in general.
His frequent mentioning of death and his overall behavior provide evidence for this misaligned perception of reality. Holden’s view of adults starkly contrasts his perception of children. In many instances, the interaction he had with adults was largely negative. This may have partly been Holden’s fault, as he was uncooperative at times. For example, after the prostitute left his hotel room, the girl and the elevator man came back to collect an extra five dollars. Beforehand, the elevator man had informed Holden that the fee was only five dollars; to avoid losing money, Holden refused the request for the additional five dollars.
The girl eventually took the due cash out of Holden’s wallet, and the elevator man took out his anger on Holden: “Then he smacked me. I didn’t even try to get out of the way or duck or anything. All I felt was this terrific punch in my stomach. ” (Salinger 115). In a separate instance, Holden spotted and hung out with a group of women, one of which he found attractive. Hoping to woo the lady, he convinced her to dance, and decided by the end of the dancing that he was “half in love with her,” just from watching her.
Perhaps Holden thought of the woman in this way because of his lack of extensive, or even basic, human connection. His parents hardly spoke to him, many of his conversations were short-lived, and he did not have many, if any, real friends. Additionally, he no longer attended school, and consequently did not have any peers or a roommate to talk to. The group of four smoked and drank, as Holden tried to act mature despite an obvious age disparity. The women mocked his young age, much to Holden’s dismay. The women eventually left, without offering to pay the bill; this greatly irritated him.
Maybe he thought that he could establish a relationship with the women because of his generosity, or perhaps he just needed a basic conversation. Either way, his interaction did not appear to benefit him in any way; if anything, it worsened his condition. The degradation of Holden’s mental health became apparent when he tried talking to a cab driver, asking about the ducks by the pond: “The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves–go south or something? ” (Salinger 91).
The question’s implicit meaning shows Holden’s concern about his own well-being; he was left without anywhere to go, and related to the ducks in the idea that options have closed. For the ducks, the pond had frozen over, preventing the ducks from getting water or potential food; for Holden, his previous school was no longer an option, and his parents would probably chastise him for his carelessness. The cab driver responded to Holden’s inquiry with vigor: “How the hell should I know a stupid thing like that? ” (Salinger 91). The remark made disheartened Holden, and only furthered his discontent with adults.
It was apparent that Holden was suffering from mental issues. The death of his younger brother was the root, and the suicide of his classmate was fertilizer for the new growth. As his story progressed, his mental health degraded. He got himself into bad situations because of his worsening condition, and the poor experiences compounded on his condition; a vicious cycle formed. It was apparent by the beginning of the book that Holden’s natural inclination is to run from problems instead of facing them. In some instances this approach may work, but it rarely performed as planned for Holden.
When he had a prostitute sent to his room, he at first intended to act normally. When the girl arrived in the room, however, he had a change of mind for an unclear reason. “”Don’t you feel like talking for a while? ” I asked her. It was a childish thing to say, but I was feeling so damn peculiar. “Are you in a very big hurry? “” (Salinger 106). In combination with likely post-traumatic stress disorder, Holden probably experienced anxiety and low self-confidence. His choice of talking to a prostitute instead of proceeding as normal shows his odd behavior as a real problem.
Consequently, the extents of his psychological issues became exposed. Holden’s instinct to run manifested itself again during his date with Sally. He proposed for the two of them to run off and live in a cabin, far away from civilization. Sally responded incredulously: “You can’t just do something like that,” old Sally said. She sounded sore as hell. ” (Salinger 147). Holden, failing to see the problems with living in the wild, responded unconvinced: “Why not? Why the hell not? ” (Salinger 147). Holden thought that it would be easy to simply escape the reality he suffered in, as his life felt miserable.
His thought process ended up damaging himself and his relationship with Sally. Holden, having been kicked out of school, narrated the story of his downward spiral into mental instability. His idealistic view of children and his negative view of the adult world partially disconnected him from reality, as he yearned to escape from it all. These problems also helped to expose the extent of his psychological issues, in addition to his altered sense of the world. Holden’s aspiration to be the ‘Catcher in the Rye’ shapes the book; it is the combination of his views that causes this desire.