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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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What are Holden's feelings about his world in The Catcher in the Rye?

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Holden Caulfield is derisive of just about everything in The Catcher in the Rye. His most famous description is "phony," which he uses for everything that annoys him, or that he feels is an affectation rather than real. Holden's negativity defines his narration, giving the book a bitter, angry feel:

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, an what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me...
(Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye,

There is never the sense that Holden's life has been actually hard, except for the alienation he deliberately forces on himself, but he describes his childhood as "lousy," and "boring," showing that he thinks his upbringing has no effect on his personality. In fact, he is so damaged by negativity that he cannot enjoy anything in life, not even the affections of his sister; he really cares for her, but can't get the anger and bitterness out of his mind long enough to enjoy her company. Holden has no regard for the world since he sees it as explicitly "phony" and therefore worthy of scorn; he thinks that he is the only person who is genuine, even though he has nothing of importance or value to give, and rejects the attentions of others, whether genuine or not.

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