Mental Health in the 1950's

Promoting mental health in the 1950's was not an easy task. At the time there was a huge stigma around mental health and people believed mental illnesses were incurable. This stigma made the topic quite taboo and many people suffering mental health issues were rejected and made outcasts by society. Additionally, the 1950's was an all time high for the number of patients in mental hospitals around America, and treatments to help cure these many illnesses were quite inhumane and even painful to patients.

Catcher in the Rye- Mental Health

J.D Salinger highlights the topic of mental health through the repetition of words such as nervous and stressed in relation to the character of Holden Caulfield. The repetition of these words suggest that Caulfield may potentially be suffering of anxiety and/or depression. At the time, it was not the norm for Caulfield to voice a concern about his mental health, although it was obviously an issue.

Salinger challenges this view of mental health and suggests that, maybe there's a reason Caulfield is feeling this way. This can be seen through the theme throughout the book in which there is an apparent absence of Caulfield's parents and family, and his dropping out of school at the beginning of the novel leading to his eventual wandering of New York.

The absence of loved ones & pressures of society to conform would be quite distressing for any teenager, let alone Caulfield, so there's no question his mental health would be affected.

In my opinion I think Salinger's aim was to point out that for someone to have a mental illness, didn't mean they were crazy or incurable but instead had just been though a lot of traumatic experiences, that would affect anyone's state of mind.

Comment Stream

2 years ago

i see that you have clearly outlined the cultural assumption of mental health in the 1950's. Theme/ assumption is also clearly shown in the examples that you have provided. the examples help me understand the basic meaning of this cultural assumption, and makes it evident that the assumption is true. This assumption was well linked and you explained the time period that the novel was based around so i could understand the context of the novel. This is a really good blog, well done!