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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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What are some quotes about adolescent violence in The Catcher in the Rye?

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In The Catcher in the Rye, there are many instances of violence perpetrated by and against Holden. One of the critical cases is not a scene in the book but told in summary by Holden about his past.

Throughout the story, Holden continues to come back to the story of his brother, Allie. Allie was Holden’s younger brother who died of leukemia years before. Holden has idealized Allie in his head, talking about how he was the best and kindest of his family members and seeing Allie as virtually perfect.

One of Holden’s only violent episodes happens on the night that Allie died. Holden recounts the story in the novel,

I was only thirteen, and they were going to have my psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don't blame them. I really don't. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn't do it. It was a very stupid thing to do, I'll admit, but I hardly didn't even know I was doing it, and you didn't know Allie. (Chapter 5)

Holden smashes the windows in the garage with his bare hands—he is so upset that he breaks his hand in the violent episode. This story, told in summary, is essential because it shows how adolescents deal with broader issues like death and loss with violence. Holden has to be psychoanalyzed after the breakdown because he was so violent that he broke his hand.

This isn’t the same as his violence against Stradler later in the novel, because that is him fighting back against injustice and a bully. The breaking of the windows is a different type of uncontrollable violence that comes out of the emotional strain of youth dealing with loss. The episode with the windows helps us understand Holden through the rest of the novel—his depression, his dislike to other people, and his constant conversation and focus on his brother. Holden is dealing with grief through the story, and one way he does that is by violence.

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Holden Caulfield has many experiences with violence and he also often thinks about violence.

Pencey Prep, Holden's school, has a very violent atmosphere. His roommate, Stradlater, is a bully. It seems that he is primarily a verbal and emotional abuser, evidenced by his insulting Ackley, their other roommate, expecting Holden to help him cheat, and taking Holden's clothes. In their physical altercation Holden takes a swing at him but misses. Stradlater, the bigger boy, throws him to the ground and kneels on his chest. After he lets him up, Holden insults him and he punches him in the face.

Then he really let one go at me. . . . my nose was bleeding all over the place.

A few paragraphs later, Holden says he has only been in two fights and lost both.

Back in New York, when Holden decides to contract the services of a prostitute in a hotel (Chapters 13- 14), he does not realize that his youth will make him an easy target. After he pays the young woman Sunny the agreed amount, the pimp Maurice returns and shoves Holden twice until Sunny steals his money. He snaps Holden in the pajamas (apparently in the genitals) and then punches him in the stomach so hard it knocks him down.

All I felt was this terrific punch in my stomach. . . . Then I stayed on the floor a fairly long time. . . . I thought I was dying.

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