Catcher In The Rye
Cultural Assumptions #2
Mental health in the 1950's was believed to be incurable. However, as the years progressed, people have came up with more reasonable and less grotesque ways to cure people.
Psychotherapy became the leading treatment (helpful for schizophrenia and depression). Behavioural Therapy developed to help patients with phobias.
Prior to all our medication and services that are available today for mental health, the 50's would have been the worst time to have had a mental illness. Especially with all the wacky remedies, treatments, etc.
The Ice Pick Cure - Where the 'doctor' would drive an icepick into his patients' brains near the top of their eye sockets. Once the pick was inside the brain, he would literally wiggle it around, cutting through the white and gray matter. It was not a precision surgery.
Faces from the Past
Holden has reached the lowest point and returns home. Holden's frightened and alone, and despite his efforts through this section to befriend people, he ends up drunk and alone in Central Park, looking for the ducks , which Salinger uses as a symbol of escape. Holden's problems in finding the lake are a device to show he has no escape routes left. He has no options left but to return home
My Example from the Novel
"I knew right where it was--it was right near Central Park South and all--but I still couldn't find it. I must've been drunker than I thought. I kept walking and walking, and it kept getting darker and darker and spookier and spookier." (Chapter 20, Pg 83)
Yes. J.D. Salinger does challenge the cultural assumption of mental health throughout the novel.
J.D. Salinger challenges this cultural assumption by expressing Holden's loneliness. Holden is always 'alone' in this novel. He'll be here and there with people but only for a few hours until he's back into his lonesome. He's constantly nervous or worried about something and he says that he can't help it or it's just a 'habit'. For example, "I sat down on the one right next to him and started turning the cold water on and off--this nervous habit I have."(Chapter 4, Pg 15), "I was getting sort of nervous, all of a sudden. I'm quite a nervous guy." (Chapter 4, Pg 19) or "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. If you knew Stradlater, you'd have been worried too." (Chapter 6, Pg 22)
I think the reason why J.D. Salinger is challenging the cultural assumption of mental health in the novel is because that's who Holden is. A 16 year old boy who has growing symptoms of mental illness and does not completely realise it until he ends up in the pshycharitic ward. In the 1950's, people who had mental illnesses were 'very easy to spot'. Whereas you wouldn't know with Holden because of his constant lies. But that was until he was sent to the pshycharitic ward.