Homework Help

Explain and give specific examples (include quotations) of how Holden endures bitter...

user profile pic

danielb77 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 18, 2013 at 10:39 PM via web

dislike 1 like

Explain and give specific examples (include quotations) of how Holden endures bitter trials/ conflict with other individuals and how they are blessings preparing him for the world and his place in it. 

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 18, 2013 at 11:53 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 0 like

The entire narrative is one bitter trial and conflict that Holden endures.  It is evident that what we, as the reader, as absorbing is a detailing of specific bitterness that Holden has experienced.  Holden tells as much in the opening:

 I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. 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. Where I want to start telling about is the day I left Pencey Prep.

Holden describing his life as "madman stuff" and how he became "pretty run- down" is where one recognizes the conflict he endures that weekend.  The basis of the novel is this bitterness.  Holden experience it in his never ending battle against phoniness.  The conflict he endures with the people at Pencey helps to breed bitterness within him and this continues into New York City, where there is nothing but broken hopes and busted dreams.  For Holden, bitterness is what is around him and the taste this leaves in his mouth causes him to be in constant conflict with the world around him.

If one is willing to accept the premise that Holden emerges out of this bitterness into a condition of blessing, then the salvation has to be with Phoebe.  While Holden does express love for Allie, his death makes this expression a temporary flight from bitterness.  It is Holden's acknowledgement of Phoebe's effect on him that becomes the blessing out of a weekend of bitterness. Holden cannot fully embrace a world of despair and emptiness because Phoebe is in it. When she meets him with her suitcase packed, Holden realizes that there is some shred of goodness left in a world that has done a good job in destroying it, in his mind.  When Holden sees Phoebe on the carousel, he realizes the blessings present, something illuminating from an ash of bitterness:

The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them.

It would be contrived to suggest that the bitterness Holden experienced was the direct causation of this moment of blessing. Yet, I think that the bitterness he experienced brought him to a point where this blessing could be understood.  It is from this point that Holden articulates to Phoebe his vision of being the "catcher in the rye" for the children.  Through this, Holden does realize what he values and what he loves. When Phoebe tells him that the essential result of his business is that he doesn't "like anything," Holden is forced to value what he loves in the world.  He is able to assert that he loves Phoebe and Allie.  He loves and this is the blessing.  Holden is no longer the Dostoevsky "angry man."  Rather, he has found the blessing of love and redemption in a world that is rife with bitterness and conflict.  If one is going to search for the "bitterness/ blessing" dynamic, it is here in which the latter would be evident.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes