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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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Why did Holden's parents want to have him psychoanalyzed?

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Holden's parents wanted to have Holden psychoanalyzed because he broke all of the windows in the garage with his fist.

Holden even tried to break the windows on the car with his fists that summer as well. At that point, though, his hand was so broken and messed up that he couldn't do it. Holden tells readers that he broke all of those windows "just for the hell of it." That may be what Holden tells readers, but that is not the reason that he broke all of those windows.

Holden broke all of those windows because he was angry and sad at the fact that his younger brother, Allie, had died. Holden idealizes Allie. Allie was basically the perfect child according to Holden. Everybody liked Allie. He was friendly, intelligent, and kind to people.

You'd have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. His teachers were always writing letters to my mother, telling her what a pleasure it was having a boy like Allie in their class. And they weren't just shooting the crap. They really meant it. But it wasn't just that he was the most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest, in lots of ways.

Unfortunately, leukemia killed Allie at the age of eleven. Holden broke all of those windows because he was angry at the injustice of Allie having to die. Holden's parents just didn't understand that for some reason, so they wanted to have him psychoanalyzed by a professional.

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Holden is not a stable personality.  We don't know much about his psychological state before his brother died, but afterwards he was a little emotionally unbalanced. He did not process the death of his brother very well (if anyone ever processes something like well) and the night Allie dies he sleeps in the garage and proceeds to break all the windows with his bare hands.  In addition, Holden has been getting drubbed out of all the nice, expensive, exclusive schools his parents keep getting him enrolled in.  For these reasons, his parents want to have him psychoanalyzed to see if they can determine what is "wrong" with him.  They don't seem to think that sending him away on his own for long periods of time has anything to do with his inability to get along in life.  Their solution is to turn to mental health professionals instead of perhaps giving him the attention he needs.

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Holden's parents have to have him psychoanalyzed; he has a nervous breakdown following his chaotic weekend in New York.  His behavior leading up to the break-down is critical to their decision.

Holden himself admits on page one of the book that he had a mental breakdown.

"I'll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy." (Salinger)   

He left school without...

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permission and traveled to New York and did not let his family know that he was home.  He checks into a cheap hotel, gets beat up by a pimp, sneaks into his own apartment to see his sister and sneaks out before his parents see him.  He hides from them.

He seeks comfort at the home of a former teacher and thinks that he is making sexual advances at him, so he runs out in the middle of the night and ends up sleeping in the train station. 

Holden fantasizes about his death, sitting in the freezing Central Park almost wishing that he freeze to death. 

He tells his sister that he intends to hop on a bus and go west to work on a ranch.

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Holden's parents do not understand their son. Perhaps they are still dealing with the death of Allie, but they are aloof and cold. Their method of dealing with Holden is to keep sending him to different boarding schools instead of keeping him home and talking frequently with him about his feelings. They mistake the pains associated with growing up with psychosis and sending Holden to a psychiatrist is another way of pushing his problems onto someone else. Granted, his behavior is bizarre, but it didn't start that way. But, no one has taken the time, except Phoebe, to get to know and accept Holden. Like the ducks, he is frozen out of his parents' lives and their solution is to bring in a "professional" to "fix" him.

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