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The best parts of The Catcher in the Rye are Holden Caulfield's thumbnail portraits of people he encounters. His insights, of course, are those of his creator J. D. Salinger, whose secret seems to be that he is describing familiar "types" but making them seem unique individuals because they are putatively being viewed and evaluated by his faux naif narrator, Holden Caulfield. Holden hasn't lived long enough to be able to categorize people as incisively as Salinger, who was not overly fond of most people and spent many years in isolation in a house surrounded by an unusually high wall.
Sally Hayes is a "type" with whom most of us are familiar. She is a beautiful, extroverted "cheerleader" type who will marry an upwardly mobile young man and spend much of her time playing tennis while her maid takes care the children. The exodus from Manhattan had not yet occurred in 1951, but Sally will eventually be living in a big house with a swimming pool in some place like Connecticut.
Holden decides to take Sally to a play starring Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, a pair of famous actors who were married to each other and played different husband-and-wife roles in plays that were all pretty much alike.
I didn't much want to see it, but I knew old Sally, the queen of the phonies, would start drooling all over the place when I told her I had tickets for that, because the Lunts were in it and all. She liked shows that are supposed to be very sophisticated and dry and all, with the Lunts and all. I don't. I don't like any shows very much, if you want to know the truth.
This, of course, is really J. D. Salinger speaking through his alter ego. Holden likes to take Sally out because she is very pretty, and smells nice, and he enjoys necking with her. But he realizes that she is the "queen of the phonies." Holden is not the only person who would not be too crazy about Sally. A lot of girls dislike the type that Sally represents. She is in love with her face in the mirror. She is so insincere that she is not even sincere with herself. She thinks she likes the Lunts, but what she really likes is the ambience of a Broadway theater with a well-dressed audience and polished professional actors who exchange witty dialogue she barely understands or even listens to.
Taking Sally to the Broadway show gives Salinger (through Holden) an opportunity to express some of his views on drama.
I don't like any shows very much, if you want to know the truth. They're not as bad as movies, but they're certainly nothing to rave about. In the first place, I hate actors. They never act like people....And if any actor's really good, you can always tell he knowshe's good, and that spoils it. You take Sir Laurence Olivier, for examaple. I saw him in Hamlet.
Sally Hayes might adore Sir Laurence in Hamlet, but many people would agree with Holden that the famous actor is so pleased with himself in this movie that poor Hamlet seems hidden behind a Great Actor in love with his own voice and personality and slashing Shakespeare to ribbons. Anyone familiar with some of Hamlet's soliloquies cannot enjoy Olivier's interpretations because he keeps waiting for him to leave out important lines and misinterpret others.
Many intelligent and sensitive people will heartily agree with Holden when he says:
The trouble with me is, I always have to read that stuff by myself. If an actor acts it out, I hardly listen. I keep worrying about whether he's going to do something phony every minute.
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