Bertrand Arthur William Russell once said, “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one's work is terribly important.” Every day, thousands of people have an emotional or psychological breakdown. It can be spontaneous or it can be built up and that person can leave signs that would show an oncoming breakdown. In the novel, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, the main character, Holden Caulfield, is a 16 year old troubled boy who is trying to find his own identity and his purpose in the world. Along the way, Holden shows many increasing signs of an emotional/ psychological breakdown throughout the book.
Holden shows symptoms of an incoming emotional/ psychological breakdown from thoughts of suicide and death. For instance, when Holden was alone in a hotel lobby, he felt “Depressed and all. [He] almost wished [he] was dead” (90). Holden is a very sad and gloomy teenager. Many passages throughout the book prove that he constantly feels that way. Because he is so depressed, he has suicidal thoughts which are common symptoms of an incoming emotional/ psychological breakdown. Another example is when Holden says, “What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window” (104). Holden has had suicidal/ death thoughts more than once now. People who have had more than one attempt of committing suicide or thoughts of suicide have a greater chance of doing it in the future. Since, Holden has various thoughts of suicide and death, it shows another sign of a breakdown in the near future. Holden’s loneliness is also a cause of an oncoming breakdown. For example, he calls a girl named Faith Cavendish and says, “‘well, you don’t know me, but I’m a friend of Eddie Birdshell’s. He suggested that if I were in town sometime, we ought to get together for a cocktail or two’” (64). Holden called Faith, a girl who he has never met before, in the middle of the night. Holden can’t stand being alone constantly so he decides to trust an old friend by calling a stranger which shows how desperate and lonely he truly is. Additionally, Holden hires a prostitute. “She came in and took her coat off right away and sort of chucked it on the bed. She had a green dress underneath” (94). Holden doesn’t hire a prostitute to have sex with her, contrary to the norm he hires her to talk to her so he feels less lonely. He wants the human connection he doesn’t have and tries so hard to get it even if it’s only temporary. Wanting a cocktail with a stranger and hiring a prostitute is not normal everyday life for a teenager. It just goes to show how desperate and how much he wants that connection with people. His constant loneliness is very psychologically unhealthy and in most cases, it is a main cause of an emotional/ psychological breakdown. Another sign of a breakdown is Holden’s obsessive thoughts. For example, Holden started “thinking how old Phoebe would feel if [he] got pneumonia and died” (156). Holden talks about getting pneumonia and dying a lot. Many times he is thinking and obsessing over it. He thought of many scenarios where he died from it and how it affected Phoebe. Holden is also very obsessed with detail. At the train station, he repeatedly mentions counting the squares on the floor. Another time he became obsessed with the type of suitcase his roommate had and ending up putting his under the bed. Obsessing over someone or something is a very common sign of some serious mental illnesses including OCD (obsession compulsion disorder). Holden’s obsession over the disease and detail is another sign of an increasing emotional/ psychological breakdown. Throughout the novel, Holden shows many increasing signs of an emotional/ psychological breakdown. Holden faces many challenges that many people go through every day. Countless people face terrible situations and problems and many times it could lead to a psychological or an emotional breakdown. Some people have one spur-of the moment but some things lead up to a breakdown and that person usually gives off signs to suggest one in the near future.