The Catcher in the Rye Questions and Answers
by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
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List some of the people and actions Holden sees as phony, and then discuss how he is phony himself in The Catcher in the Rye.

Holden describes many people and things as "phony" throughout The Catcher in the Rye, and this appears to be his favorite criticism. For example, Holden calls the headmaster of Pencey Prep a "phony slob" and criticizes his brother D. B. for being a phony sell-out for wanting to write Hollywood screenplays. However, Holden himself loves to fabricate stories and thus is also "phony." He even says he is "the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life."

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Holden Caulfield of The Catcher in the Rye is critical of many things and nearly everyone with whom he has contact, including himself. Most of his frustration and criticism has to do with his belief that others are "phony"—that is, that they or their actions are fake and/or superficial. Holden dearly loves his little sister, Phoebe, as well as his deceased brother, Allie—these are some of the only characters Holden does not accuse of phony behavior. It's important to note that Holden's criticism is a bit hypocritical: Holden often lies and deceives others, meaning that he, too, is somewhat of a phony.

Holden accuses the following people and things of "phoniness":

  • Pencey Prep
    Pencey Preparatory School, which has expelled Holden, has advertised the school as having a polo team, but Holden states he has seen no horses there. In the advertisements, there is a line that reads, "Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid and clear-thinking young men." Holden contends that the school does...

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