As Holden Caulfield interacts with others and meets new challenges, he reveals his innermost feelings throughout The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. Some may interpret his behaviors as teenage angst, but others find that Holden reveals traits of a mental disorder. Specifically, Holden suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder. Borderline Personality Disorder “is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships” (NIMH). He often experiences uncontrollable rage that results in altercations and behaves on impulse when handling money. He also shows signs of addiction when consuming alcohol. Additionally, Holden has trouble maintaining positive relationships with family and friends, and experiences frequent, but brief breaks from reality. These symptoms go well beyond those experienced by average teenagers. He is advised by other characters to seek professional help, indicating that Holden displays abnormal behavior which is apparent to others. This disorder can be triggered by “certain events during childhood… such as… sexual abuse” (BPD). Holden Caulfield 's emotions and tendencies are not due to teenage angst, but Borderline Personality Disorder. Moreover, his past experience of being sexually abused is the root cause of the symptoms he endures, and at the novel’s end the reader is left to figure out if he still struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder.
Like others with this disorder, Holden acts impulsively and has difficulty regulating his emotions. He erratically spends money, abuses alcohol, and displays irrational anger, leading to violence. Holden “[spends] a king’s ransom in about two lousy weeks” (Salinger 107). In a like manner, he me...
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...for companionship, by insulting Luce, he demonstrates his inadequacy to have relations with peers. This is also demonstrated when he goes on a date with a girl named Sally, and claims that she is “the only reason [he is] in New York right now, or anywhere.” (Salinger 131). He acts as if Sally is the only thing that matters to him, showing intense desperation for human interaction. Yet, he tells her soon after that she gives him “a royal pain in the ass” (Salinger 134). Holden does this to both Luce and Sally, even though he initially wanted nothing more to be close to them. It also shows that pushing away others is habitual within Holden. This could stem from a fear of abandonment, which causes individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder to push others away in fear of rejection (allpsych). Holden’s lack of close relationships is a repercussion of his disorder.
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