What does Holden think about the word ''grand''? What does this tell you about him?

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coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

'Grand. There's a word I really hate. It's phony. I could puke every time I hear it.'

This is a quote from the novel 'Catcher in the Rye' by J.D. Salinger which shows Holden Caulfield's opinion on the use (and the users) of the word 'grand.' So, he makes it obvious he is less than keen on it - finds it abhorrent in fact. So we must ask ourselves why his reaction to the word is so violent. Firstly, it represents 'fake' in Holden's experience - and therefore in his mind. Whatever experience he has had of people using this word has been negative up until this point. The people who used it may have been pompous and self-congratulatory (undeservedly so in Holden's eyes.) They may have been using the word to describe either their own wealth and status and education - or someone elses. They may have been bragging about an 'impressive' life that Holden knew to be different. This is a common experience for teens as they grow up - they may find out their Dad is not the hero they thought he was, or that Mom has 'a Past' and that other adults have flaws and are not perfect. Holden doesn't mind that - what he minds is them pretending they are! Being phony or grand.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden mentions that he abhors hearing the word "grand" used by others. Holden believes that "grand" is a phony word and its use makes him want to vomit. Initially, the reader senses that Holden is an extremely irritable teenager after he makes this comment. Like most teenagers, Holden comes across as moody and hypercritical. The reader also notices Holden's use of the term phony and his willingness to exaggerate his feelings. Given the context, Mr. Spencer refers to Holden's parents as being grand people. Holden's negative reaction also informs the reader that he is less than impressed with his parents and people in authority. Holden clearly disapproves of Mr. Spencer using the phony word "grand" to describe his parents.

The reader can also infer that Holden has had some negative experiences with adults, who are probably successful, in the recent past. Holden's negative perception of people described as being "grand" reveals that he is insightful enough to notice imperfections in adults. Overall, Holden comes across as jaded and irritable when he describes how the word "grand" makes him feel.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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