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The main conflict is between Holden and society. Holden, it seems, has been particularly devastated by the death of his brother Allie, who he considered the perfect child. This has thrown him into an existential crisis of sorts; he is unable to find joy in life or to cope with his loss. Ultimately on the brink, he capitulates to convention and comes back home, though there is little sense that he has found even the basic ingredients for happiness.