Catcher of the Rye Holden Caulfield spends much energy looking for phoniness in others that he never notices his own phoniness. Describing what he sees and experiences, he provides his own commentary on the events and people around him. He begins his story in Pennsylvania, at his former school, Pencey Prep and narrates his adventures in New York. Holden wants to interact with people in an adult way yet part of him disregards the adult world as superficial. He wants to withdraw into his own childhood memories.
Instead of accepting that adulthood scares him, Holden devises a fantasy that adulthood is a world of phoniness, while childhood is a world of innocence and honesty. In Chapter 22, Holden explains that adults are phonies, yet they cannot see their own phoniness. For him, phoniness is a sign that everything is not correct in this world around him and offers an excuse for him to move into isolation. Though Holden is right that people are phony, it is clear that his disgust for phoniness is still self-destructive. Though Holden is always pointing out the phoniness in others, he is often phony himself.
Holden values Jane as a person, whereas Stradlater views her as a sexual object ( Salinger, 44). No wonder Holden is uneasy at the thought of Stradlater and Jane together. Holden says he needs to go say hello, but cannot get himself to finish off and actually do so. We see this as he thinks of calling Jane. Holden is a coward, but his passiveness here is a real suggestion of his true feelings for this girl. He got frustrated by the thought of Stradlater and Jane because he has genuine feelings for her. Since he cannot bring together respect and having lust for a girl, anything associated with sex means she got slighted. (Salinger 34).
Among the stories with a lot of phony, is a lean-jawed guy named David in it, and many phony girls named Linda or Marcia who are always lighting David’s pipes for them”(Salinger 53). Later he says it was extremely phony, especially for the piano player in the restaurant, to act like a compassionate snob. This act of phoniness is followed by some hatred. This is shown when he explains the mood to the psychiatrist. You can sense that Holden got upset and troubled of the piano player.
Holden battles with his sexuality. He deems himself a sex fanatic yet he is downright naive. More so, he has exceptionally strong and contrary feelings about women. He sees most women as stupid, such as Bernice Krebs and Sally Hayes. This is because they appear interested in boys and men. Holden knows these men are up to no good. On the other hand, Holden sees Jane Gallagher as an impeccable woman: innocent and lovely. He venerates her. His feelings towards women and sex reflect his feelings about society. He anxiously wants to have sex and attain emotional affection yet at the same time he is afraid. Although he values aptitude in women, he allows physical appearances to confuse his judgment.
Holden’s ruses are generally senseless and harsh and he accepts that he is a habitual liar. For example, while going to New York on a train, he commits an unnecessary prank on Mrs. Morrow. He wants us to believe that he is an epitome of virtue in a superficial world. Although he wants us to believe that innocence lies on one side while phoniness rests on the other, Holden is his own evidence.
Salinger, Jerome. The Catcher in the Rye. New York: Bantam Books, 1964.Print