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What Are The Causes Of Holden's Mental Breakdown

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The Catcher in the Rye, written by J.D. Salinger in 1951, is the story of an angst-ridden sixteen year old Holden Caulfield as he learns to deal with growing up. The story follows Holden through his three day experience through New York as he learns about the truth about innocence, sex, and mortality, making The Catcher in the Rye one of America’s most notable coming-of-age stories. One of the largest influences on Holden’s life was his younger brother Allie who died from leukemia at age eleven when Holden was thirteen. The death of Holden’s brother had a profound effect on Holden emotional state, which eventually caused his complete mental breakdown by the end of the novel. The repercussions of Allie’s death had immediate effects on Holden’s…show more content…
Holden exhibits many of the physical symptoms of depression, such as changes in appetite, unexplained physical problems, and increased consumption of alcohol (Mayo Clinic). By the end of the novel, Holden experienced a complete nervous breakdown and displays many of the symptoms of depression. Once in the novel Holden mentions his thin physique while at a diner. He says, “I’m a very light eater… That’s why I’m so damn skinny,” (Salinger 120). Additionally, another time at a diner he orders a doughnut and coffee, but he is unable to bring himself to eat the doughnut, and even says, “if you get very depressed… it’s hard as hell to swallow,” (Salinger 216). Holden recognized his depression caused by Allie’s death and being isolated in New York for three days, and because of it, he is unable to bring himself to eat. Also, his depression caused him to inexplicably pass out while at a museum (Salinger 225) and nearly vomit while walking around New York (Salinger 202). Additionally, Holden went to Mr. Antolini’s house because he needed a place to stay for the night, and while he was there, Holden said he was “feeling sort of dizzy” and had “a helluva headache all of a sudden,” (Salinger 202). This comes up after Mr. Antolini tries to talk to Holden about his future, and…show more content…
This is most likely because Holden wants to continue living in the past when his brother was alive. Several occasions in the novel Holden expresses the feeling that he is responsible for protecting the innocence of children since he was unable to save Allie. The title of The Catcher in the Rye reflects this responsibility since when Holden is talking to his sister, he says, “I keep picturing all these little kids playing… And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff… I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff,” (Salinger 191). To Holden, falling of the cliff represents the shattering of a child’s innocence, and Holden feels like he has to stop children from growing up. He feels very protective of his little sister Phoebe because she reminds Holden of Allie since they are both younger than Holden and have red hair. For example, when visiting Phoebe’s school, Holden becomes infuriated by the profanity written on the wall and is concerned that other kids, including Phoebe, may see the writing (Salinger 221). Not only does Holden want to prevent other kids from growing up, he wants to keep his own innocence so he does not forget about Allie. Holden notes that “the best thing [about museums] was that everything always stayed right where it was… The only thing that would be different
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