Catcher in the Rye

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The Theme of Phoniness in Catcher in the Rye
Phoniness is a reoccurring theme used in J.D. Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by the main character Holden Caufield. Throughout the entire novel, the word “phony” is used many times by Holden, making phoniness appear to be one of the most dominant reoccurring themes. He describes numerous characters’ “fake” attitudes as phony. It seems to be the way Holden rationalizes that the world is a bad place and thus making him want to protect adolescence and keep them from being exposed to adults and this phoniness. But Holden actually appears to be a hypocrite. Holden Caufield believes all adults are phony, but as the novel shows, Holden is not immune from phoniness himself.

Holden is constantly referring to people and situations as phony. One being shallow, fake, or superficial qualifies them as a phony according to Holden. Holden sees this “phoniness” everywhere in the adult world. Many of the characters in the novel are indeed often phony to keep up their appearance, so yes, people are phony and Holden is right, but he himself is guilty of the same things. The first time Holden mentions the phonies he brings up Mr. Spencer. He had disagreed with Mr. Spencer when he had told him about “life being a game”, and simply responded by saying, “If you get on the side where all the hot shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot shots, then what’s the game about? Nothing. No Game” (Salinger 8). Phonies, like his fellow students, are more interested in looking good than actually doing anything good. Holden often develops sarcastic phoniness, either out of his anger or as a complete joke. After Holden got in a fight with his roommate, Stradlater, he goes into his neighbor Ackley’s room. When Ackley does not let him sleep in his empty roommate’s bed Holden says, “You’re a real prince. You’re a gentleman and a scholar, kid” (Salinger 47-8). This is a...
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