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Holden Caulfield is a high school junior who had been expelled from four schools. This was his fifth admittance. He had initially been expelled from Pencey Preparatory. The results obtained from Holden's mental status examination had indicated that he possessed numbness in emotions characterized by an extremely high level of anger. This portrayed his incapacity of tracking conversations and excessive distractibility. He had poor orientation with regards to people, place, and time. He lost concentration from time to time and became absent-minded. It is evident from the words of Mr. Spencer when he discusses Holden’s performance in History exam, “He wonders how the ducks in central park vanish in the winter and where they go” (Salinger 170). Holden possessed pessimistic thoughts and negative attitude towards most subjects. He had fluctuating attitude but retained secretiveness and did not cooperate.
In the novel, one of the main themes involves the existing relationship between pain of one’s feeling and that of one's experience, on the one hand, and the prevalence of numbness existing as a result of avoiding suffering through shutting down of a person’s emotion, on the other hand. After the death of Holden’s younger brother, Holden shuts down his emotions; this forces him to lose attachment with other people in a bid to avoid hurting again. This is evidenced from his constant remarks on the importance of preventing being attached to anyone to avoid missing them once they die. This character of losing attachment with the people graduates from poor to worse since, as the story progresses, Holden becomes afraid if speaking to anyone.
Holden’s memory functions normally in some events, a situation that quickly changes to detachment in case of stressful times. In most discussions, Holden is able to portray instantaneous and remote memory of real information and event as evidenced in their conversation with Mr. Spenser. He vividly remembers his conversation with his lecturer, Dr. Thurmer, how he lectured him about life, he indicates that the lecturer said, “Life is a game” adding that one is supposed to “Play it according to the rules.” Holden’s negative perspective in life is seen when he argues that life only becomes a game for those people who are playing on the right side. He implies that he sees nothing positive in life. Holden’s thoughts are not only disorganized, but also scattered as he lacks future goals.
Holden’s lack of future ambitions can be traced in his lifestyle. Firstly, he consistently fails at school. He lacks interest in the things that he is learning. For instance, Mr. Spenser indicates that Holden had terribly failed in the History paper. When asked, he admits that Mr. Spenser taught well, but he went on to state that he disliked the Egyptian history. He is not ready to grow though he is old enough; the writer says that Holden distances himself from his age mates or older. His mind is constantly fixed on his childhood seeing that period as a personal paradise (National Institute of Mental Health). He even goes to an extent of hoping that life would have remained as it was and will never change. He says that certain things in life should remain the way they are where one ought to have the capability of sticking those events in big cases of glass and store them there.
Holden’s level of personal insight appears unrealistic in most aspects. For instance, although he secretly loves Phoebe, he does not show it arguing that he is protecting her. This is unrealistic simply because he thinks that he is protecting her, but in actual sense, accepting love would instead cure him. His minds are full of delusions and suicidal thoughts. In the novel, Mr. Antolini seems to understand clearly the intensity of Holden’s problem, this is evidenced from his remarks “I can very clearly see you dying nobly, on the way or the other….” Mr. Antolini is implying that Holden has so much lost his torch with reality that he would result in doing something stupid like suicide since he does not value his life. Again, Holden’s suicidal thoughts are clearly seen in his response to Phoebe’s question. When asked what he likes most in life, instead of giving Phoebe an answer, his minds are firmly glued to a young boy by the name of James Castle who had committed suicide.
The extent of Holden’s feeling a sooner death is seen when he becomes convinced that he has cancer. This makes him wonder around thinking that he had long to live. He goes to an extent of thinking that he could not make it to the other side of the street. His allusions to suicide escalate when he starts walking around as though he was shot. At central park, he believes that he was suffering from pneumonia and that he was about to die. He starts imagining his funeral, Phoebe’s and his parent’s reaction concerning his death. In the entire novel, Holden envisions his own death in numerous ways: cancer, pneumonia, suicide, homicide, and nuclear warfare (Salinger).
In conclusion, Allie’s death leads to Holden’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People suffering from this illness have a tendency of avoiding things or situations that might remind them of some past traumatic events. This is evidently seen as Mr. Spenser tries to inquire the reason behind Holden’s leaving Elkton Hills. Holden avoids answering this question by saying that it was a long and extremely complicated story.