Catcher in the Rye

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"You ought to go to a boy's school sometimes. Try it sometime," I said. "It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques. The guys that are on the basketball team stick together, the goddam intellectuals stick together, the guys that play bridge stick together. Even the guys that belong to the goddam Book-of-the-Month Club stick together." (Salinger, 170)

The selected passage above portrays Holden’s adolescent view of society which he sees as corrupt and in which he cannot seem to function. The passage shows how he alienates himself from society as a whole. Throughout the novel, Holden attacks various aspects of humanity and is hypercritical of everyone and everything around him. Holden’s writing style in the passage reflects this conflict within him. Salinger uses diction in this work to show Holden’s maturity level as well as his hostility towards those around him. In addition, Holden’s first person narrative voice reveals his fears and insecurities. The author also uses the frenetic pace of Holden’s narrative to portray the characters increasing anxieties as the novel progresses. Holden’s tone fluctuates throughout the novel and he constantly repeats the same words and ideas as a way of making the reader sense the conflicts within him. This passage depicts Holden Caulfield’s alienation from society on his journey from childhood to adulthood, and eventually the toll it takes on his mental state. Holden frequently uses the word “phonies” throughout the novel to refer to what he sees as the hypocrisy of the world around him. To Holden, schools such as Pency and the other prep schools he attended represent all that Holden believes is superficial or phony....
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