Holden is afraid of confrontation, and afraid of his own weakness.
Holden often describes his fears as being “yellow.” He says “it’s no fun to be yellow.”
Yet when Holden does get into a fight, he has a strange reaction. He fights Stradlater over Jane Gallagher, and over Stradlater’s perceived ignoring of him. He seems to enjoy the fight.
I went over and took a look at my stupid face in the mirror. You never saw such gore in your life….It partly scared me and it partly fascinated me. All that blood and all sort of made me look tough. (ch 6)
Holden’s toughness does not last, however much he might want it to. I'm one of these very yellow guys. I try not to show it, but I am. (ch 13)
He explains how while he longs to stand up for himself, and fantasizes doing so, he is not really capable of it. He feels awkward around other people, not tough. Realizing he is “yellow” is one of the things that makes him depressed.
Holden is a very mixed up kid. He is trying to find himself and decide what kind of person he can be, but he is worried he will not turn into a person he can respect.