What are some problems that Holden faces in The Catcher in the Rye?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the major issues that Holden deals with throughout the novel concerns the death of his younger brother Allie, who died of leukemia when he was eleven. Allie's death significantly impacts Holden's mental health and well-being. On the night that Allie died, Holden broke every window in his garage and had to be hospitalized. Holden then sinks deeply into depression and does not get over his brother's untimely death. Holden's traumatic childhood experience negatively impacts his grades, relationships, and overall perspective on life. Holden is unable to maintain close friendships with boys his age and cannot focus on the majority of his subjects at school. He also has a negative disposition toward practically everything he encounters in life and seems to live in the past. Even Holden's fear of becoming an adult is connected to the death of his younger brother. Holden's psychological issues mimic the symptoms of individuals suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Holden never sought therapy following the death of his brother and proceeds to live an unfulfilling, depressed life. Allie's death is the root of Holden's many social and mental issues throughout the novel. 

teachertaylor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One major adolescent issue that Holden faces in the novel is dealing with his sexuality.  Near the end of the book, Holden assumes that Mr. Antolini is trying to make a sexual advance on him, and he says that these types of things have happened to him many times before.  It is unclear whether Holden means that he has been molested in the past or whether he has received advances by other males in the past.  In either case, the experience with Mr. Antolini makes Holden uncomfortable at the moment when it happens (Holden later considers that Mr. Antolini was just being affectionate towards him because he felt sorry for him).  Earlier in the novel, Holden also displays his inexperience with women.  Even though he talks a great deal about making out with girls, when he invites Sunny to his room, he does not have sex with her.  He claims that he realized he was not in the mood, but he often says this to cover up his true intentions (he also used this line to get out of speaking to Jane when she went on a date with Stradlater).  Holden is still caught in his desire to go back to his childhood, so his adolescent sexuality is an issue that he is not prepared to address.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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