Is Holden himself guilty of being a phony?I want more than 3 quotes to prove this...

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Since the novel is satire, Salinger's focus is more on the society as phony rather than the individual.  Of course Holden is a phony, but it is only because he is a victim of the phony culture.

On the phony scale, though, Holden is pretty low: he is materialistic and obsessed with sex.  But, he's tame compared to Stradlater, for instance.  Here are the major phonies:

1. Glad-handing adults (headmaster)

2. Over-sexed teens (Stradlater)

3. Pretentious snobs (Luce)

4. Celebrity-obsessed girls (in Lavender room)

5. Materialistic artists (D.B.)

Now that he is given a choice as a young adult, Holden is deciding whether or not to drop out of the phony culture.  He doesn't know if he is courageous enough to live as a non-phony for the rest of his life.

Holden fears being a hypocrite, or a phony.  He wants to live a quiet life surrounded by books instead of people and money, but he's afraid that he'll be the "wrong kind of monk," a "stupid bastard."

Later, on his run-away journey in the city, Holden sees two nuns and their dilapidated suitcases.  The nuns also are symbols of holiness, and their suitcases are symbols of modesty, humility, and anti-materialism.  Holden likes the way they look and the way they "never [go] anywhere swanky for lunch."  As such, nuns are some of the few non-phonies in the entire novel.

All this is echoed near the end of the novel when Holden gets advice from Mr. Antolini, an Italian and--like Mercutio and the nuns--likely a Catholic.  He says Holden is “in for a terrible fall”:

"The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."

Was Mercutio a noble man?  Are the nuns noble?  Would Holden be noble if he becomes Catholic?  Or joins a monastery?  What is Holden's noble cause?

Holden could end up like Mercutio or the nuns.  He could die for a noble cause, like Mercutio and James Castle, both of whom committed suicide.  Or, he would live humbly for one, like the nuns.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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