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In The Catcher in the Rye, explain and give specific examples (include quotations) of...

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danielb77 | Valedictorian

Posted July 19, 2013 at 3:16 AM via web

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In The Catcher in the Rye, explain and give specific examples (include quotations) of how Holden endures bitter trials/ conflict within himself and how they are blessings preparing him for the world and his place in it. 

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted July 19, 2013 at 9:48 PM (Answer #1)

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The bitter conflict that Holden experiences within himself is the struggle between his anti-social self and his more outgoing tendencies, which sees him going to places he doesn't like and mixing with people he doesn't care for. We can say that this is just his internal adolescent struggle but it does seem particulary acute in Holden - although it might just be because he chooses to lay bare his most intimate thoughts.

The more withdrawn side to Holden is really the child that refuses to grow up; he does not evince any dangerous anti-social tendencies, but rather simply petulance. As he says of himself, while narrating his story:

I was sixteen then, and I'm seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I'm around thirteen. (chapter 2)

There are many instances which shows Holden's internal struggle. Almost at the very beginning he remarks:

If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me.(chapter 1).

Yet, throughout the book, he goes to the movies and talks about them at length. He detests pretentious nightclubs like the Lavender Room yet he goes there. He thinks Sally Hayes is 'a pain in the ass' but he makes a date with her 'because she was very good looking’ (chapter 15). He despises Carl Luce as an intellectual snob yet phones to meet him for a drink and a lengthy conversation.

Holden acts as though he does things he claims to detest because he has nothing better to do. Maybe, though, this contradictory streak in him is really his realisation that doing things one would rather not do is part and parcel of the business of life, and that most adults learn to cope with it, to some extent at least. Holden hardly seems able to cope with it yet, but maybe he is slowly growing into it. 

Another thing Holden gradually seems to realise is that he probably doesn't hate other people as much as he thinks he does. He admits as much to Mr Antolini, saying that he actually hates people like his schoolmates Stradlater and Robert Ackley ‘only for a little while’ (chapter 24) and that he starts missing them if he doesn't see them for a few days. So it seems that he really feels that many other people are not so awful after all, although he has trouble curbing his immature reactions to them. In other words, in spite of himself, he is beginning, however painfully, to grow up.

The deep conflict that Holden experiences within himself, between his regressive tendencies and his more social side, will probably never quite go away. However it prepares him for the future in the sense that he will take his place in adult society, while never quite losing his awareness of the more superficial and phony aspects of world around him which, though regrettable, are part of the fabric of social life. 

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