The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Analysis of Chunk 7 (Chapters 18 - 20)

In his discussion of inferiority complexes at the beginning of the section, Holden draws upon important concept in behavioral psychology called cognitive dissonance. When criticizing how "if [girls] like a boy, no matter how big a bastard he is, they'll say he has an inferiority complex, and if they don't like him . . . they'll say he's conceited. Even smart girls do it" Holden points out that there is something inherently biased, or false, about human behavior.

When discussing war, Holden tells an anecdote, saying that Allie once asked D.B. if the war would give him something to write about. D.B. then proceeds to ask Allie "who was the best war poet, Rupert Brooke or Emily Dickinson[?]" Allie answers Emily Dickinson. The anecdote derives its meaning from the fact that Rupert Brooke was a writer and serviceman killed in World War I, whereas Emily Dickinson was a recluse (who may or may not have written any war poems, certainly not a well-known one). By pointing out Dickinson was better at writing about war, Allie unknowingly asserts that war need not be experienced to be used in art. On a larger level, the anecdote points to the thin line between phoniness (writing about something) and reality (experiencing it).

Also related to war is Holden's disturbing remark that "I'm sort of glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. If there's ever another war, I'm going to sit right he hell on top of it. I'll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will." Though there is little doubt that Holden is too yellow to do such a thing, the outburst itself is further evidence for his disgust with war and its pretentiousness, and especially society as a whole.

At the bar with Old Luce, we find Holden pretending to be older than he is in order to order a drink. Moments later, this is contrasted with Luce's comments that he needs to grow up. Again, we find the ambiguity of Holden's age. Perhaps Holden's problem is one of identity-he has yet to discover where he wishes to be, among the phony adults or innocent, but immature, children. Old Luce himself offers is a perfect specimen of phony adulthood: despite his surface maturity and intellectualism, Luce is filled with pretensions and hypocrisy.

After leaving the bar, Holden, drunk, pretends to be wounded and concealing the wound. This false wound can be seen as a reflection of a more personal, interior wound, which he is concealing. Possibly it is a reflection his loneliness, as seen both by his comment of "feeling so damn depressed and lonesome" as well as his choice to call Sally so late at night.

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