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In The Catcher in the Rye, is Holden himself a phony?
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High School Teacher
Holden is in fact more of a phony than the people that he accuses. Holden believes that all adults are phony because of the fact that they take responsibility for their lives, even when things don't go your way, adults have to cope.
Holden finds it particularly difficult to accept that his parents are able to move on from Allie's death. His parents move forward, continue to live, to work to make money. Unfortunately for Holden, he does not realize that life requires the living to go on, even though you bear a deep sadness and loss in your heart.
D.B., Holden's older brother is a phony, a sell-out, because he writes scripts for Hollywood instead of serious books. Yet Holden, who refuses to participate in being a responsible student does not see his own faults.
His family is not pretending to live, they are not phony, what is phony is Holden's refusal to grow up. You can't stop the process. It is phony of Holden to pretend to remain a child, when he knows that, he is maturing into a young adult.
It is phony of Holden to say that he really cares about Jane Gallagher, yet he never calls her. When she has a date with Stradlater, Holden does not go to the Annex to say hello.
Holden is a very depressed person, he is stuck in a grief cycle over his brother's death, refuses to accept responsibility and accuses everyone around him who lives their life of being a phony.
Posted by pmiranda2857 on November 10, 2008 at 10:05 AM (Answer #2)
High School Teacher
I think Holden is absolutely a phony, however I really think he is forced to be a phony. He cannot open up to any adult about his concerns because he probably feels they will simply tell him "that's life" and encourage him to just move on. They would most likely not understand the struggle he is feeling within. I do, however, also thinks he tries to have some fun with it, showing not a phoniness but a childish immaturity. He feels forced to be a phony regardless of anything because he has to pretend he is fine in front of adults. Therefore, he goes ahead and enjoys himself by making up intricate stories and lies to fool the adults he considers phonies already and thus perhaps worthy of being fooled.
Posted by lizbv on December 11, 2008 at 4:25 PM (Answer #3)
High School Teacher
Perhaps Holden is a phony because life and those in his life have forced him to be so. His parents don't want to hear the truth. However, Holden doesn't even seem to be honest with himself, and until he is, he is probably the biggest phony.
Posted by ask996 on July 15, 2010 at 11:02 AM (Answer #4)
To me CATCHER is less about teenaged coming-of-age angst and more about a kid struggling to keep his head above water because of mental illness in the form of PTSD. Holden is barely "holdin' on."
Holden appears to be suffering from PTSD stemming from the death of his brother and from witnessing the suicide of his schoolmate who bailed out of a dorm window wearing the sweater Holden loaned him.
Here are the symptoms of PTSD that Holden exhibits: depression, inability to concentrate, crying, uncontrollable rage, lack of motivation, sleeplessness, etc. (I'm intimately familiar with these symptoms because I was diagnosed with PTSD stemming from childhood trauma.)
In a 1953 interview with a high-school newspaper, Salinger: "My boyhood was very much the same as that of the boy in the book ...it was a great relief telling people about it."
I don't think Salinger when he was writing CATCHER had a clue about PTSD, as it wasn't even a recognized psychiatric diagnosis until decades later. He just blasted his feelings onto paper and let the chips fall. He probably thought he was just crazy.
People see JD Salinger as some kind of literary genius because he sold 70 million copies of one book. I think he just opened his spleen and let it rip. I'm not saying he wasn't talented and educted; he had plenty of both going for him. I'm saying he leveraged his talent on top of some inner need to get this desperate crisis part of his life onto paper and kept going until it was done.
Posted by wordist on June 29, 2012 at 2:14 AM (Answer #5)
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