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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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What is another element (besides the fear of truth) of Holden's character that impairs his ability to communicate in The Catcher in the Rye?

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Trauma is a prominent element that dramatically affects Holden's ability to communicate with others in the novel. Holden was only thirteen years old when his younger brother, Allie, passed away, which was a traumatic event in his childhood that negatively affected his mental health. Tragically, Holden never received any psychological help as an adolescent and continues to struggle with the grief stemming from his brother's death. Holden's positive memories of his brother prevent him from moving on with his life and influence his bias against superficial adults. Holden feels more comfortable interacting with children than he does speaking to adults and peers because children remind him of Allie.

Another traumatic event that negatively impacts Holden's social skills is witnessing James Castle's dead body lying on the sidewalk outside of the dorms moments after he committed suicide. Holden was friends with James Castle, and witnessing his dead body is another traumatic experience that impacts Holden's mental state. Overall, the traumatic experiences involving the deaths of his younger brother and classmate negatively affect Holden's social skills. Holden internalizes the tragic deaths of Allie and James Castle, impacting his ability to communicate with others in an appropriate, genuine manner.

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Grief is an undercurrent in Holden's character. Though this grief is subtly expressed, it is a fact of his character. 

Holden's emotional and psychological state is rendered unstable after his brother Allie's death. Holden punches though a window and badly cuts his hand, beginning a chain of self-destructive behavior driven by his grief over the loss of his younger brother. 

The series of failures in school, transfers, etc., constitutes one response to Allie's death. Allie is also clearly aligned with Holden's psychological difficulties as it is Allie that Holden speaks to in moments of crisis and extreme turmoil. 

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