How is Holden himself guilty of being a phony in The Catcher in the Rye?  

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Throughout the novel, Holden is continually criticizing his peers and adults for being phony. Holden believes that any person who is not fully genuine at all times is a phony. Despite Holden's highly critical attitude, he is the biggest phony in the novel. Holden constantly criticizes Hollywood and the entertainment industry and even says, "If there's one thing I hate, it's the movies. Don't even mention them to me" (1). However, Holden discusses numerous movies that he's seen, goes to the theaters with his classmates, pretends to be an actor, and even takes Sally Hayes to a show. 

Holden also claims to hate dishonest people, yet lies throughout the entire novel. He makes up a lie to get out of Mr. Spencer's home at the beginning of the novel, tells Mrs. Morrow his name is Rudolf Schmidt, and lies to the reader numerous times about his personality and accomplishments.

Holden claims that he is a pacifist, yet attempts to punch Stradlater, and also fantasizes about killing Maurice. Another example of Holden's phony behavior takes place on his date with Sally Hayes. Holden continually ridicules Sally for being superficial and shallow, yet tells Sally that he loves her and asks her to move to the country with him. Holden is essentially a walking contradiction and, thus, is the epitome of a phony throughout the novel. 

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Catcher in the Rye, Holden denounces materialists--the rich, snobby prep-school types like Stadlater, Ernie Morrow, and the headmaster.  He also says he hates movies, the Hollywood industry, and his brother for sacrificing his short story writing career to be a "sell out" screen writer.  And finally, Holden condemns the oversexed Stradlater because he brags about his escapades.  Instead of these "phonies," Holden champions the innocent and uncorrupted: children (Phoebe), nuns, and James Castle (who committed suicide rather than conform).

When it comes to money, movies, and sex, Holden is indeed a kind of phony.  When it comes to money, Holden is a bit of a hypocrite.  Sure, he gives money to the nuns, but he also blows through it to go on his runaway adventure, staying in hotels, paying for cab fare, buying drinks in nightclubs.  He also goes to the movies more than a few times, even with Ackley.  And he proclaims himself "sexy" throughout much of the novel, and he tries to pick up girls, even a classmate's mother (Mrs. Morrow), every chance he gets.  But, don't forget, Holden is at least admitting his phoniness to us through his actions in the novel.  So, he is a self-aware phony even though he does not explicitly denounce his own actions.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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