Violence in the Catcher in the Rye Often, simple physical conflicts are used to develop characters and to increase the suspense and action between them. In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield the 16-year-old narrator and protagonist claims to be a pacifist. Holden views the world as an evil and corrupt place where there is no peace. As a sincere person living amongst phonies, he views others as completely immoral and unscrupulous.
In the novel violence is used to further develop Holden’s character. This is shown through his physical conflict with Stradlater, his conflict with Maurice, and the suicide of James Castle. In his conflict with Stradlater, Holden’s character as protector of the pure and innocent is shown. First Holden is forced to defend the memory of his brother Allie. Holden writes a report for Stradlater about a glove, which belonged to his treasured younger brother Allie who has passed away to the cause of leukemia. As a result of Stradlater’s criticism on the subject, Holden destroys the composition saying, ‘All right, give it back to me, then,’ I said.
I went over and pulled it right out of his goddam hand. Then I tore it up.’ ; (Salinger 41) Holden admires Allie, and his baseball glove, and is forced to protect his honor. Next Holden is upset, and worried about Jane’s date with Stradlater. He fears that Stradlater is determined to steal Jane’s innocence. He explains, ‘If you knew Stradlater, you’d have been worried, too. I’d double-dated with the bastard a couple of times, and I know what I’m talking about.
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He was unscrupulous.’ ; (Salinger 40) Holden acknowledges Jane’s purity and wishes not to have to think otherwise with Stradlater. Holden feels the responsibility to defend the pure and the innocent. Besides his conflict with Stradlater, he is also involved in a physical battle with Maurice. Holden’s conflict with Maurice demonstrates his sincerity and his hatred in the evilness of the phony. Primarily, Holden is vigorously pushed to protect himself from Maurice. Holden arranges to spend time with Sunny a prostitute, and later is forced to pay double the agreed amount by Maurice, the hotel elevator operator.
Maurice demands, ‘Want your parents to know you spent the night with a whore? High-class kid like you?’ He was pretty sharp, in his crumby way. He really was. ‘Leave me alone. If you’d said ten, it’d be different. But you distinctly.’ ; (Salinger 102) Holden is struggling to secure himself, by attempting to end the fight. Secondly, the evilness of the phony is shown during his conflict with Maurice.
Holden cries, ‘All of a sudden I started to cry. I’d give anything if I hadn’t, but I did. ‘No, you ” re no crooks,’ I said. ‘You ” re just steeling five’ ‘Shut up,’ old Maurice said and gave me a shove.’ ; (Salinger 103) The evil scenery causes Holden to, uncontrollably break down in tears. Holden’s hatred of the phony is grown, as well as the protecting of the innocence.
In addition to his physical conflicts with Stradlater, and Maurice, Holden’s personality develops with the suicide of James Castle. Holden admires the suicide of James Castle because the boy stood up for himself. As a result, he fantasizes of becoming a hero. Initially, Holden envies the real, heroic action of James Castle. James a slim, fragile boy, and a student at Elkton Hills, has been confronted by a group of conceited boys regarding something he had said about one of them. Instead of giving into their demands he threw himself out the window.
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Holden explains, ‘but he still wouldn’t take it back, old James Castle. And you should ” ve seen him. He was a skinny little weak-looking guy, with wrists about as big as pencils. Finally, what he did, instead of taking back what he said, he jumped out the window.’ ; (Salinger 170) Likewise, Holden is a small guy, and would like to be as courageous. In addition, after his physical mishap with Maurice Holden imagines being a fearless Hollywood hero. Holden clarifies: I sort of started pretending I had a bullet in my guts.
Old Maurice had plugged me… dressed and all, with my automatic in my pocket, and staggering around a little bit… As soon as old Maurice opened the doors, he’d see me with the automatic in my hand and he’d start screaming at me, in this very high-pitched, yellow – belly voice, to leave him alone. But I’d plug him away.
Six shots right through the belly… and call up Jane and have her come over and bandage up my guts. I pictured her holding a cigarette for me to smoke while I was bleeding and all. (Salinger 103) Holden likes to pretend to be a hero similar to those in movies. It is very awkward at the age of adolescence to pretend to be dying. James Castle’s suicide develops a part of the psychological identity of Holden.
Holden’s character develops through his physical conflict with Stradlater, and his conflict with Maurice, as well as the suicide of James Castle. Holden’s feeling of responsibility of protecting the pure and innocent is developed in his conflict with Stradlater, in the attempt to defend Allie’s honor, and Jane’s purity. Holden develops a stronger hatred of the phony in his conflict with Maurice in the attempt to secure his welfare. Holden has a respect for James Castle, and also his action has a mental effect on Holden, as demonstrated in his fantasies. Before restricting works of literature for the violence, one must think of the importance it has in the development of characters.