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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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Could you please explain the conflicts in Chapters 9 - 12 of The Catcher in the Rye?

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The major conflict that Holden faces in the end of the novel revolves around his anguish over not having anyone to rescue him.  Holden wishes that he could save young children from losing their sense of innocence, and he tries to protect Phoebe from losing her childhood innocence.  Holden, however, has not felt this sense of protection from anyone in his life, and he cannot deal with his own loss of innocence.  Holden has been struggling with this conflict throughout the novel, and it becomes apparent in the concluding chapters.

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Chapters 9-12 in The Catcher in the Rye reveal three leitmotifs that Holden echo throughout the book (see below).  Taken together, they reveal Holden's unwillingness to progress emotionally into adulthood after his brother's death.  Rather, they show his desire to remain a lost child, a lonely martyr in a corrupt adult world:

1.  Fascination with Innocence and Things Frozen in Time:

  • Frozen pond in Central Park
  • Fish trapped underneath
  • Ducks forced to be moved elsewhere
  • Jane keeping her kings in the back row (checkers)

2.  Wanting both to Rescue and to be Rescued:

  • Ducks in the lagoon: wants someone to rescue them
  • Wants to rescue Jane from Stradlater
  • Wants to rescue Phoebe (from corrupt adult world)
  • Wants Pheobe to rescue him (be a moral compass)

3.  Sorting out Phonies from Non-Phonies:

  • Over-sexed teens are phony (Stradlater)
  • Celebrity-obsessed girls are phonies (in Lavender room)
  • Materialistic artists (D.B.) are phonies
  • All kids are non-phonies: Phoebe
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To me, there are a couple of conflicts going on in these chapters and they are really just the same conflicts that dominate the book as a whole.  I think there is an internal conflict within Holden and I think there is a conflict between Holden and society.

All of the conflict that appears to be between Holden and people in these chapters is really Holden vs. society in my opinion.  When he tries to talk to Faith, the women from Seattle, and the taxi driver, he is trying to act in ways that he finds interesting.  But the other people don't really approve.

At the same time, it seems like there's a conflict inside of Holden about whether he really rejects society or not.  Otherwise, why would he keep looking for these "phony" interactions instead of just calling Jane?

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