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In The Catcher in the Rye, explain how specific trials Holden faces which place him in...

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danielb77 | (Level 1) Valedictorian

Posted July 19, 2013 at 3:17 AM via web

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In The Catcher in the Rye, explain how specific trials Holden faces which place him in conflict with society work to prepare him to integrate into society later on.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 19, 2013 at 7:15 AM (Answer #1)

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There are many instances of Holden being in conflict with society in its widest sense. This is of course because of the psychological armour that he has carefully built up around himself in order to try and protect himself from being hurt any further. However, again and again, the novel shows Holden becoming very upset and angered by the "phoniness" he sees in society, and his armour that he has invested so much time in constructing is shown to have some fairly major holes in it. What is key to focus on is the way that the novel shows a downward plunge of Holden's psychological health, and in Chapter 24, Mr. Antolini himself draws attention to this with the following words:

I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of terrible, terrible fall... The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with... So they gave up looking.

This, interestingly, is very different from the kind of fall that Holden himself imagines when he pictures himself being the "catcher in the rye": Holden's vision is far more romantic than Mr. Antolini's. However, this comment clearly foreshadows Holden's complete breakdown which comes after Mr. Antolini makes a homosexual advance towards him. It is interesting to note that all of these moment of conflict emerge when people don't act in the way Holden expects them to. Yet, in terms of preparing Holden for health, ironically it seems that the "terrible, terrible fall" that Mr. Antolini predicts is important in order to strip away all of Holden's psychological armour so that he can receive healing. The Holden that speaks to the reader in the final chapter of the novel is very different from the Holden in the rest of the novel, as he has clearly confronted some of his issues and is in a much healthier place, yet this is only possible because of all of the conflict he has faced and the complete fall he has suffered.

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