Conflict in a novel catcher in the rye

The widely regarded Russian author, Leo Tolstoy, once said, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself” (Creative Quotes). People have very disparate reactions to the word “conflict”. Some people rise up in choler at the word while others cower in trepidation. However, “conflict” does not mean “altercation”. There are many diverse types of conflict: conflict with self, with people, with nature, and so forth. Self conflict can be the antecedent of all other conflicts. In Buddhism, it is said that to be at peace with the world, one must be at peace with oneself.

Holden, the main character in The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, seems to have many conflicts. Yet, these are all inveterately established in his conflict within himself. Self conflict is the initiator of all other conflicts and is exemplified in Holden’s conflicts with his parents, his teachers, and his peers. Throughout the book, Holden is incessantly in a basic conflict with his parents. Although, in the story, Holden is never face-to-face with his parents, he often finds ways to ventilate the conflicts he has with them. The conflict between the two parties has chiefly to do with Holden’s implementation at school.

Albeit, he does not care about school, he knows that his parents “[will] be pretty irritated”, and yet, he keeps failing school (Salinger 13). This demeanor indicates that he consciously foments conflicts with his parents, and does not care. He does not want to handle the consequences, so he is further challenging his parents’ dominion. Instead of being veracious, he schemes to “[go] away…get a job on a ranch or something for a while” (214). Withal, he does not commence this conflict for the exclusive reason of failing school or attaining his parents’ disdain.

Rather, it is due to the fact his school was “full of phonies. And mean guys” (217). Holden does not accept his culpability only, instead, blames the school. The reason that he believes everybody is a “phony” is he so deliberately and fervently tries not being a “phony”. He does not understand that he must desist from lying to himself. By continuing to lie, he is in a kilter of self conflict because lying is a contradiction of truths. His inner conflict is the mecca of the conflict between himself and his parents. Holden’s conflict with his teachers is, in some ways, more facile than his onflict with his parents. Holden succeeds in failing the majority of his classes, which is in plumb conflict with his teacher’s interests for him to do well. However, because Holden is so egregious in not trying in class, it is almost a slap in the teachers’ faces. They want to indoctrinate him about a subject that titillates them, something they cherish and value, but he does not even want to listen to their attempts. Ergo, he is affronting them emotionally, furthering the conflict between them. However, it is clear that Holden is a clever student. With some effort, he could go far.

His history teacher doubts “very much if [Holden] opened [his] textbook even once the whole term” (15). Yet, by not trying at school and contesting that he does not have a nimble mind, Holden is in conflict with himself. Holden knows he is intelligent and talented but harbors his knowledge. He tries to renounce his intelligence and induce himself of his lack thereof because he does not want to acknowledge his wits. Instead, Holden prefers to put himself down to make sure he is not being a “phony”. His deep inner conflict is the reason for his conflict between Holden and his teachers.

Holden’s conflict with his peers has many different facets. Most of his conflicts with his peers are shown in direct argument with or judgment towards them. His inner conflict is most discernable in his conflict with his roommate. He wants to be like Stradlater, his roommate, and do things like him. Stradlater is convivial and gregarious and a ladies’ man; Holden wants to be just as popular. However, how can he be popular and not a “phony”? There are things about Stradlater he could never fully be and in consequence, he puts himself down for that.

Instead of looking up to or being good friends with Stradlater, he bickers and quarrels with him. This shows that Holden has a conflict with himself for not being Stradlater. Holden’s inner conflict also is displayed when he is on a date with a girl named Sally. He tells her he wants to run away with her but really he “[doesn’t] even know why [he] started all that stuff with her. [… He] probably wouldn’t’ve taken her even if she’d wanted to go” (174). Instead of apologizing, though, Holden blames Sally by saying, “C’mon let’s get outa here. You give me a royal pain in the ass, if you want to know the truth” (173).

He does not want to be alone and when he accidentally goes around telling someone that, Holden does not want to recognize it. Instead of admitting to his loneliness, Holden provokes an argument. The conflicts Holden has with his peers can be directly traced back to his conflict with himself. Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, Holden goes through many conflicts. Yet all of his different conflicts with parents, teachers, and peers are just part of his inner conflict; this is expressing that self-conflict is the reason for all other conflicts. In order to be at peace with the world, people need to be at peace with themselves.

Peace comes from within. When people pettily bicker, antagonize each other, wage war, only inner peace can begin the process to better the world. Self-conflict is what makes our world a war-torn, conflicted, and troubling place to exist in. Humanity must find the inner peace in order to coexist. Works Cited “Creative Quotes and Quotations On Self”. Creating Minds- Quotes and Quotations From the Wise On All Things Creative. Syque, 2002-2008. 6 September 20008. Salinger, J. D. “The Catcher in the Rye”. New York, New York: Back Bay Books/ Little, Brown and Company, 1979

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