The Catcher in the Rye explores that traumatic effects that first-hand experiences with death can have on an individual. The narrator, seventeen-year-old Holden Caulfield, lost a younger brother to leukemia four years before the story is told. He was also witness (at least by ear) a young boy's suicide at prep school. These events leave him – and therefore, the story he narrates – plagued with nearly constant thoughts of death and mortality. The Catcher in the Rye is riddled with symbols of death and disappearance, which Holden often focuses on to avoid interacting with the real and living world around him.
Holden's obsession with certain symbols, along with his fantasies about disappearing, indicate that he has a death wish.
Although Holden is indeed obsessed with death and mortality, it is only because he cherishes life so much.