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The Catcher in the Rye: How Does Internal Conflict Completely Take Over One's Life?

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In the book, The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield’s life is consumed by the battle going on inside himself. J. D Salinger writes of a young man, whose childhood experiences have led him into a deep hole of grief. Holden tries to suppress his misery with a dislike towards most everything. In the beginning of the book he relies on the “falsity” of others to continue his unsatisfying lifestyle, he later realizes he may also be a contributor to the falsity as well. As the people surrounding him lose hope, he continues to lash out and push people away because nobody can hurt you if you don’t let them, right? Holden’s actions betray more and more of the“madman” that he claims to be. The internal and external conflict of Holden Caulfield may only be resolved when allows himself to move forward with his life and let’s go of his harsh judgments of himself and others.

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“One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all… I can’t stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy. I hated that goddam Elkton Hills”. Holden continues to get kicked out of schools. His loathing toward “phonies” leads to isolation and self-destruction. He’s so unhappy with himself he goes on to create conflict to prevent himself from moving forward after the death of his brother Allie. His harsh view of everyone surrounding him displays his fear of rejection and being emotionally hurt. While at the lavender room, he sees three older women, after not being able to get drink at the bar, he decides to ask them to dance. Before he has even said anything to them, he’s already decided they are unworthy of his time. “They probably thought I was too young to give anybody the once-over. That annoyed the hell out of me… I should’ve given them the freeze”. He feels threatened after they laugh at him, and begins making several excuses why it doesn’t matter to comfort his fear of being rejected.

Holden often shows the same behavior as many of the “phonies” he claims to resent. Holden meets Ernest Morrow’s mother, a boy he describes as, “doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey”. Despite his great distaste for Ernest he indulges her. “Old Mrs. Morrow didn’t say anything, but boy you should’ve seen her. I had her glued to her seat. You take somebody’s mother, all they want to hear about is what a hot-shot their son is. Then I really starting chucking the old crap around”. He tells her what a wonderful boy Ernest is, for his own amusement. Although Holden claims to hate phonies, he exhibits the exact traits he describes a phony to have. He is insincere, and only presents his charming self for his own benefit.

“Then I went over and laid down on Ely’s bed. Boy, did I feel rotten. I felt so damn lonesome”. Holden keeps pushing people away because they fall short of his expectations, but continues to feel lonely. He’ll only reach out to people when he’s feeling bad for himself. He only displays his loneliness when nobody is paying attention. He stays with Ackley despite his dislike for him because it comforts him. “While I was changing my shirt, I damn near gave my kid sister Phoebe a buzz, though. I certainly felt like talking to her on the phone. Somebody with sense and all. But I couldn’t take a chance on giving her a buzz”. Holden begins running out of people to turn to, his unforgiving critic eliminates the phonies, but doesn’t leave him many people to fall back on. He wants to reach out to somebody, and his sister is one of the few that won’t reject him. Even though he desires someone to give him some relief, he often hesitates out of the fear of being hurt.

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