What evidence is there that shows us that Holden probably doesn't look as old as he says he looks in "The Catcher in the Rye"?

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gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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A t the beginning of the novel, Holden Caufield mentions that he is rather tall and has a considerable amount of gray hair, which is why most people think he is older than he really is. However, Holden is an unreliable narrator, and the reader needs to continually question whether Holden is telling the truth throughout the story. There are several scenes which indicate that Holden may be exaggerating how old he appears. When Holden is on the train sitting next to Mrs. Morrow, he asks if she would like a cocktail. Her immediate response is, "Dear, are you allowed to order drinks?" (Salinger 31). Holden then turns his head sideways to show Mrs. Morrow his gray hair. If Holden really appeared to be as old as he says, Mrs. Morrow would never have questioned him.

As was mentioned in the previous post, Holden attempts to buy alcohol at the Lavender Room and is not served. Holden evidently does not look like he is twenty-one. After Holden dances with a blonde girl at the Lavender Room, he sits down next to her friends and attempts to have a discussion. One of the blonde girl's friends, Laverne, does not take Holden seriously and continually asks him to call his father to ask what he is doing that night. Laverne is mocking Holden because of his age, which again indicates that Holden does not appear to look as old as he claims. 

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Once in New York at the cheap hotel, Holden goes down to the bar. He enters the Lavender Room, and the bartender refuses to sell him a drink. Holden thinks that he has the whole thing figured out, how to order the drink, act like you know what you are talking about and the bartender won't see that he's too young. It doesn't work, because Holden is only 16 years old.

"I ordered a Scotch and soda, and told him not to mix it, I said it fast as hell, because if you hem and haw, they think you're under twenty-one and won't sell you any intoxicating liquor. I had trouble with him anyway, though, "I'm sorry, sir," he said, "but do you have some verification of your age? Your driver's license, perhaps?" (Salinger)

The prostitute, Sunny, that Holden arranged for with Maurice, the elevator operator, questions him about his age. He tells her that he is twenty-two. She does not believe him she says:

"Hey, how hold are you anyways?" (Salinger)

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