According to Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye, a primary difference between him and the people that populate his society has to do with paying attention. In Holden’s estimation, people aren’t too observant. As Holden says in the first chapter, “People never notice anything.” Holden, however, notices quite a bit. He notices that Old Spencer, his history teacher, picks his nose and that the ducks in Central Park must go somewhere when the water freezes. He notices the cuss word on the wall in Phoebe’s school and that people “always clap for the wrong things.” Indeed, it’s safe to say that Holden is acutely aware of his surroundings. The people in his surroundings come across as less mindful.
Another key difference between Holden and everyone else in society relates to his belief that people are phony. A reader might notice that this term appears repeatedly throughout Holden’s narrative. It suggests that Holden, though not perfect, is much more genuine and honest than the superficial and fake people that he regularly interacts with. Old Spencer is a phony, his older brother’s ex-girlfriend, Lillian Simmons, is a phony, and even Sally Hayes, one of the girls whom he goes out with, is referred to as “queen of the phonies.”
For additional ways that Holden separates himself from everyone else in society, think about how he presents himself as more sensitive and innocent than most of the people in his world.