1950s Mental Health

                   Mental illness in the 1950s was seen as an incurable disease. People with mental health issues were seen as outcasts in society and as people who had an incurable ``disease`` and had to be institutionalized in order to receive the help they needed. Treatment of mental illness in the 50s  included lobotomies, electro-convulsive shock therapy and injections of insulin & Thorazine.

Electro-convulsive shock therapy treatment
Lobotomy Treatment

In the 1950s, people did not have a lot of knowledge when it came to knowing about mental illness, the diagnosis & treatment and what symptoms may arise because of a certain mental health issue. More importantly not a lot was known about adolescent mental health & mental illness in adolescents, as mental illness was more associated with adults rather than with teenagers  during the 1950s.

Mental Health in Catcher In The Rye

To demonstrate the cultural assumption of mental health in this novel, J.D Salinger uses the novel element of language and uses the technique of repetition to show this. In the novel the words depressed, nervous, worry, alone and god damn are used repeatedly to show Holden Caulfield`s emotions towards certain events and people he encounters along the way. Excerpts from the novel that show this include:

I can't stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy

Pg 8

Boy, was I getting nervous Pg 23

But God damn it, they thought that was a panic Pg 38

In  the 1950s, people with mental health issues were seen as people who were crazy, depressed and were a majority of the time alone and by themselves.

Challenge of this Cultural Assumption

To challenge this cultural assumption, Salinger uses the absence of Holden Caulfied`s parents and how this may affect him. Excerpts  from the novel to show this includes :

"I got out early. Not so loud. You'll wake everybody up." "What time is it? They won't be home till very late, Mother said. They went to a party in Norwalk, Connecticut," old Phoebe said. "I don't know--Listen. Didn't they say what time they'd--" " "Listen a second. Didn't they say what time they'd--" "Wait a second, willya?" I said. "I'm asking you a question. Did they say what time they'd be back, or didn't they?"

"No, but not till very late. Daddy took the car and everything so they wouldn't have to worry about trains. Pg 88

My parents were occupied and all before they had me. Pg 1

The absence of his parents is possibly one of the most prominent reasons for why Holden feels the way he does and is linked back to the novel by the fact that he has been sent away for school. One of  the reasons his parents have done this is because maybe his parents think he has some mental health issues and needs to receive some sort of treatment for this.

I think J.D Salinger is challenging this cultural assumption because he doesn't think teenagers who are crazy, depressed and angry have mental health issues but because they feel alone all the time  even when they're surrounded by people. I think hes trying to make people realize that they`re are other things that can contribute to mental issues not just by being a moody teenager in the 50s.

Comment Stream

2 years ago

I really enjoyed your tackk, I think it is an excellent representation and interpretation of the particular cultural assumption. However I was surprised that there are very few similarities between our novels.