2. Mental Health

Mental health in the 1950's was very different to today's society. It was assumed that mental health patients were not human and they were all insane. They were treated as outcasts of the society and this resulted in the patients being treated inhumanely. Mental health in teenagers however, was not yet an issue because they were mistaken for being teenage delinquents. If teenagers were becoming violent and rebelling against the society then people assumed they were teenage delinquents and didn't relate it to the possibility of a mental health issue. Throughout the Catcher in the Rye we are shown signs of Holden Caulfield's mental health problems through his sense of unhappiness and loneliness. These examples of Mental Health are demonstrated through two language techniques, language and the structure of the novel.  

The language technique that is used in the Catcher in the Rye to depict the assumption of mental health is the language used by Holden Caulfield. We realise that Holden is a very depressed and unhappy character within this story. He has failed when it comes to his schooling as he flunked out of everything subject. He has also turned to smoking and alcohol to help deal with his problems of being lonely and depressed, only to enhance the problem. A quote from the novel to demonstrate his feeling of loneliness is when Holden becomes very drunk, "I was crying and all. I don't know, but I was. I guess it was because I was feeling so damn depressed and lonesome." He finds himself wandering Central Park with no option but to return home. Another example of Holden's language demonstrating mental health is his continuous repetition of words such as depressed and worried. Holden refers to his worry often within this novel. "I was so damn worried, that's why. When I really worry about something, I don't just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only I don't go. I'm too worried to go. I don't want to interrupt my worrying to go."  Towards the end of the novel Holden tells us that he is suffering from a terrible headache. " I still had that headache. It was even worse. "

The structure is also used to demonstrate the issue of mental health. Throughout the novel we discover more about Holden's issue and realised how troubled he is. The novel jumps between significant events of his past and present life, showing us many flashbacks of past events. This gives us a picture of Holden's confusion and how he is heading down the path of having an emotional breakdown. Towards the end of the novel Holden says that he gets sick, " I could probably tell you what I did after I went home, and how I got sick and all,". We can then assume as the audience reading the novel that Holden eventually has a mental breakdown due to all the worry and depression he has put himself through. Maybe this is because he is weak from the depression that no one has helped him deal with them. The middle section of the of the novel is when Holden attempts to act as a confident with his encounter with a prostitute. He leaves the hotel and we are then shown how insecure and vulnerable her is to the corrupt world.

J.D Salinger challenges the idea of mental health throughout the novel as an idea of Holden just being lonely and not actually suffering from a mental health problem. He is sent to different boarding schools and therefore does not build a good relationship with his parents. The only real person who he can talk to is his younger sister Phoebe. He tries to desperately to befriend people however all his attempts fail. When they walk out on him it makes him lonely and depressed, this challenges the idea that mental health in this novel is just a case of whether Holden is lonely.