Sigmund Freud was a famous Austrian psychiatrist who developed his own branch and method in the science of psychology: Psychoanalysis. Freud spent most of his time researching individual’s sexuality and created the notion of the “developmental path of libido” that explains different stages of sexual development in a male. Freud claims that there are two different sides in a human’s brain, the conscious and the unconscious. The unconscious is where sexual drives start, immediately after the birth. He asserts that a baby feels love and affection toward the person who looks after the baby, generally the baby’s mother. Freud calls this feeling that is targeted at the mother the “affectionate current” and the mother or the person who looks after the baby he names the “primary object choice”. According to Freud, this affectionate current is caused by the dependency of baby on its mother because she is supplying his milk and they spend a lot of time together. Freud also explains that this situation remains constant till the puberty period. (12-15 years) Starting from the puberty period, because of a growing sexual sense and increase in the libido, a child develops a sensual current that is targeted at the mother. With the sensual current, a child unconsciously realizes that he couldn’t have sex with his primary object choice, his mother. This obstacle against incest, which is taboo in society, causes some effects on the child. Child finds another person called secondary object choice in his mother’s role and directs his sexual and affectionate current to this person. If the child is satisfied and has a sexual relation with his secondary object choice, child completes his sexual development and relaxes. There are three possible dangers to prevent a normal relationship between a child and the secondary object choice. The child may not find a secondary object choice in his mother’s role. The child may dislike the secondary object choice for some reasons for example the child may find her ugly, fat or old. Also, child couldn’t be successful with her because the secondary object choice that is generally in child’s mother role is older than the child and there is a society pressure on the child not to have such a relationship. If one of these dangers takes place, child becomes frustrated in reality. In frustration in reality, child’s affectionate and sensual currents split. The sensual current of the child becomes directed towards a debased sexual object whereas his affectionate current is directed to an object reminiscent that he loves. However, “where he loves, he can not desire and where he desires he can not love”. Frustration in reality leads to “psychical impotence” which is the last chance of the child to remain sexually active. If the boy is not frustrated in reality but rather has too much attention to the primary object choice he starts to fantasize, masturbate and enters into an imaginary world. This leads to total impotence according to Freud. Entry in the total impotence means child couldn’t success to complete his sexual development and it is probably impossible for him to complete it. This little summary of the Freud’s developmental path of the libido will help us to analyze the protagonist of the novel “The Catcher In The Rye”, Holden Caulfield. So, in my essay I am going to apply Freud’s theories on Holden’s life and analyze his behaviors.
First of all, I want to make a short summary of Holden’s past life. He is the second son of a rich family who live in New York. His big brother D.B. left home and went to Hollywood. His little brother Allie died from leukemia. These two events affected Holden very negatively. He misses his big brother and feels guilty about the death of Allie. So, his parents weren’t really interest in him and sent him to boarding schools. He has always flunked in these schools and had been kicked out four times. Holden felt guilty about Allie’s death and couldn’t manage to get rid of this feeling. He couldn’t find any friends and loved only his little sister Phoebe. Phoebe is the focus of Holden’s love. Holden has had no sexual experience before; he had only kissed some girls.
Secondly, I will explain Holden’s developmental path of the libido following Freud’s ideas. Like most of other children, Holden had a strong love to his mother when he was a baby and child. This love comes from his dependency on his mother like Freud mentioned. However, approaching the puberty period Holden has many changes in his life like the death of Allie, the departure of D.B. and going to boarding to schools. These changes affected Holden and he focused his love on Phoebe. His affectionate current changed its direction and oriented itself towards his little sister Phoebe. Phoebe became his primary object choice. At the beginning of the puberty, Holden unconsciously understood that he couldn’t have sex with Phoebe because of the obstacle against incest in society. During the puberty period, he formed a sensual current and had increase in his libido. His affectionate current and sensual current became separated. (Always affectionate current for Phoebe) Then, he placed Jane Gallagher in Phoebe’s role and Jane became Holden’s secondary object choice. He could have completed his development if he had had sex with Jane. However, one of the three dangers explained by Freud happened and he couldn’t manage to have a relation with Jane. They were very good friends as they spent a summer together and Jane wasn’t seem very likely to have sexual relation with him. Also, Holden didn’t use his chance very well because he once had a chance to have a relation with her but he didn’t have courage to kiss her from lips. Therefore, he couldn’t have sex with her. This leads to frustration in reality and Holden enters in the period of psychical impotence. In this period, he had a chance to have sex with two sexual debased objects; Sally and the prostitute Sunny. However, he didn’t have opportunity to have sex with Sally and he didn’t like Sunny. Sunny was unsuitable for him and also Holden wasn’t in the mood at the time. These two failures lead to total impotence and it is very difficult now for him to complete his developmental path of the libido.
Finally, in my opinion it is clear that we can apply Freud’s theories to Holden’s life and this will help us to understand his behavior more easily. As far as I am concerned Holden didn’t terminate his developmental path of the libido and this failure increases the pressure on him.