Holden Phony Essay

The Catcher In the Rye: Genuine or Phony? Essay

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J.D. Salinger published Catcher in The Rye in 1951. The main protagonist in the novel, Holden Caulfield experiences many conflicts and predicaments. It is common for Holden to hold opinions on characters throughout the book. His opinionated nature shows that human interactions mean a lot to him. Holden generally likes genuine people opposed to phony people. The comparison of genuine and phony is shown throughout the novel, especially when Holden meets new people. His true personality is shown to the reader when we see whom he respects and despises. Holden’s relationship with his own dorm room members while at Pencey Prep shows how Holden recognizes people who are genuine, while ignores or de -legitimizes people he feels…show more content…

Within the 3rd chapter of Catcher in the Rye, we are introduced to Ossenburger who is a wealthy undertaker. He gave a long speech about his Christian ideals and how religion overwhelms him. “He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving his car. That killed me. I can just see the big phony bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs” (Salinger 16). Holden sees believing in a God all right, but the fact that it is flaunted and raved by someone who enjoys stocking up money is very hypocritical. Ossenburger discussed with Pencey Prep about how “you should talk to Jesus all the time” and “we should think of him as our buddy” (Salinger 16). Holden’s experiences in life have led him to believe divine intervention in our lives really is non-existent. His brother Allie died young and he is narrating his various adventures from a mental institution. He has no connection to the Mr. Ossenburger’s claims of the power of religion. Perceptually, he believes every claim Ossenburger says is false or phony. Ossenburger presents himself as a devout Christian by day, however by night he is embezzling himself in an undertaking business that is supposed to be something sacred. Someone genuine in his opinion would say that Christianity could be good, but that life can still be bad despite being a Christian. Throughout the novel Holden supports children’s endeavors because he cites their “innocence”. Holden has three

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Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye is critical of many things and nearly everyone with whom he has contact, including himself. However, he dearly loves his little sister, Phoebe, as well as his deceased brother, Allie.

The phoniness of others

Pencey Preparatory School, where Holden has been expelled, has advertised the school as having a polo team, but Holden states he has seen no horses there. In the advertisements, there is a line that reads, "Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid and clear-thinking young men." Holden contends that the school does no more "molding" than any other school. Indeed, Holden, Stradlater, and Ackley do not seem to meet the standard promised by the school's advertising (Ch. 1).

Holden's brother D. B. was once an original writer, but Holden considers him a phony since he has gone to Hollywood, where he is "being a prostitute." That is, he has sacrificed his artistic talents for writing screenplays (Ch. 1).

Holden's roommate, Stradlater, seems to look neat, but Holden declares he is "a secret slob." Holden says Stradlater "looked all right," but his razor was rusty with hairs and "crap" on it. Also, Stradlater has Holden write an essay for him and plans to turn it in as his (Ch. 4).

A classmate named Ernest Morrow is described by his mother as "a very sensitive boy." However, Holden comments, "That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a —— toilet seat" (Ch. 8).

Holden's phoniness

Holden confesses to the reader that he is "the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life" (Ch. 3).

He complains about Ackley's being in his room too long, but he stays in Ackley's room and sleeps for hours in his roommate's bed (Ch. 7).

Holden praises some of the faculty although he has earlier criticized them. He calls them phonies because they "act like" teachers, meaning their demeanor is different in the classroom than when they engage in a private conversation (e.g., Mr. Spencer). 

Holden's phoniness (continued)

When Holden meets Ernest Morrow's mother, Holden falsifies his name, telling her he is Rudolf Schmidt, the name of the school's janitor. After Mrs. Morrow says that Ernest loves the school, Holden praises her son, even though he regards Ernest with disdain:

Then I started shooting the crap around a little bit... "He adapts himself very well to things. He really does. I mean he really knows how to adapt himself." (Ch.8)

However, earlier in Chapter 7, Holden describes Eric in derogatory terms, calling him "the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey."

As the conversation continues, Holden tells Mrs. Morrow that he is on the train home because he must have an operation for a brain tumor. Then, when Mrs. Morrow invites him to visit, Holden says he is going to South America with his grandmother. (Ch.8)

In another aspect of his life, Holden is also hypocritical. He is upset with Stradlater for his cheap sexual exploits, believing that people should not engage in sexual activity unless they care for each other deeply and have respect for one another. However, he tries hard to lose his virginity, even agreeing at a hotel to pay for a prostitute. Yet he also claims to value innocence.

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