In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden is often hypocritical. How is this shown?

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One of the aspects of Holden's character that it is almost impossible to ignore is the way that he endlessly rants and raves about characters who he feels are insecure, boring and "phony." Being "phony," for Holden, is a catch-all description that is shown to refer to both those who are deliberately fake and superficial, but also those who are too conventional and typical. However, the biggest example of Holden's own hypocrisy is that his use of the term "phony" reveals ironically only his own superficial nature in terms of the judgements he makes about people. Throughout the novel, Holden is repeatedly shown to choose simple, black and white judgements over more complex and nuanced readings of situations and characters. Note how his judgemental attitude of those around him is expressed when he meets the mother of one of his classmates on the train. When he tells the reader about what her son is really like, he expresses an attitude that shows he is ignoring the more complex realities of his character:

Her son was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey, in the whole crumby history of the school. He was always going down the corridor, after he'd had a shower, snapping his soggy old wet towel at people's asses. That's exactly the kind of a guy he was.

In this quote he condenses an entire person's character into the description of somebody who flicks his towel at other boys, ignoring the different aspects of this boy's personality. Holden simultaneously wants to be recognised for the complex human being that he is whilst judging those around him to be "phony" without getting to know them. He blames people for their superficiality whilst relying on superficial judgements to inform his views and attitudes to those around him. Holden, therefore, shows himself to be hypocritical and the biggest "phony" in the entire book.


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