In chapter 16, how does Holden feel about actors?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Chapter Sixteen of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden declares that he hates actors. He finds actors exaggerated and inauthentic:

They never act like people. They just think they do.

Holden concedes that good actors do act slightly like real people, but this depiction of real personalities is only superficial and, therefore, not "fun to watch." If actors are really good, Holden adds, then the audience can usually detect that they are aware of their talent, and this self-awareness then spoils the effectiveness of their performances. As an example of his point about the phoniness of actors, Holden mentions Sir Laurence Olivier, a famous British actor who played in major films and in the 1948 production of Hamlet. Holden feels that in playing Hamlet, Olivier portrays a man who is "like a general" rather than a "sad, screwed-up type guy."

Then, in a rather revealing statement, Holden mentions that he must read the play himself that he views because when he attends a play, he keeps "worrying about whether [the actor is] going to do something phony every minute." It becomes apparent, therefore, that Holden again perceives another facet of life through his own faltering psychological lens. 

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ms-mcgregor's profile pic

ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Holden believes actors are phony. He says actors try to be real, but end up just sounding like actors, not like real people. His hatred for actors and the movie first begins when he berates his brother,D.B., to selling out his talent and writing for the movies. Holden says the theater is also phony because instead of showing people the truth, it puts the emphasis on theatricality. He insists he never saw so many phony things as he saw in the theatre. Holden also shows his hatred towards three women he meets at a bar because they are only interested in movies and famous actors. In Chapter 16, when Sunny, the prostitute, tells Holden she spend most of her time at the movies,he calls her the "queen of phonies". The irony is that Holden is going to a play in the afternoon and he is paying to see a lot of those same "phony" actors.