In what part does Holden say or do things that indicate that he hates adults, since in his point of view they are phonies?Can you also provide quotations? Thank you.

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator


In chapter 22, Holden returns home and has a conversation with his little sister, Phoebe. When Holden attempts to explain why he is failing school, he begins to elaborate on his hatred of adults. He tells Phoebe,

"Even the couple of nice teachers on the faculty, they were phonies, too . . . There was this one old guy, Mr. Spencer. His wife was always giving you hot chocolate and all that stuff, and they were really pretty nice. But you should've seen him when the headmaster, old Thurmer, came in the history class and sat down in the back of the room . . . After a while, he'd be sitting back there and then he'd start interrupting what old Spencer was saying to crack a lot of corny jokes. After a while, he'd be sitting back there and then he'd start interrupting what old Spencer was saying to crack a lot of corny jokes. Old Spencer'd practically kill himself chuckling and smiling and all, like as if Thurmer was a goddam prince or something." (Salinger, 90)

Interestingly, Holden believes that even the kind teachers like Mr. Spencer are phonies. He finds a way to criticize compassionate adults by mentioning that Mr. Spencer acts differently when the headmaster observes him. Despite this being a natural reaction when one's boss in their presence, Holden views Mr. Spencer's change of behavior as unauthentic and ingenuine. Holden has no tolerance for "phony" behavior, which is interesting because he is can be a hypocrite. Holden also considers the entire faculty to be phonies, and he does not respect them at all.

When Phoebe asks Holden what he would like to be when he grows up, she suggests that he become a lawyer. Holden responds by saying,

"Lawyers are all right, I guess—but it doesn't appeal to me . . . I mean they're all right if they go around saving innocent guys' lives all the time, and like that, but you don't do that kind of stuff if you're a lawyer . . . Even if you did go around saving guys' lives and all, how would you know if you did it because you really wanted to save guys' lives, or because you did it because what you really wanted to do was be a terrific lawyer, with everybody slapping you on the back and congratulating you in court when the goddam trial was over, the reporters and everybody, the way it is in the dirty movies? How would you know you weren't being a phony? The trouble is, you wouldn't." (92)

Holden's narrow perspective and lack of insight are on display as he elaborates on the life of a typical lawyer. He immediately mentions a scenario, where lawyers "save guys' lives" simply for receiving congratulations from the press. His generalized, pessimistic view of how lawyers live emphasizes his hatred of adults and their phony behavior.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can find examples of Holden's mistrust and dislike of  adults throughout the novel. For example, in the very beginning (and the first time we see him use the word "phony") he refers to the headmaster of Pencey as being a "phony slob." He describes a speech he heard at Pencey given by an undertaker in which the man tried to appear reverent and religious, mentioning that he "prayed to Jesus" while driving his car. This really set Holden off, and he concluded that the man was just trying to pray for more "stiffs" to increase his business. A total phony. His teacher, Mr. Spencer, tries to lecture him on doing better in school, but he dismisses this advice because as an adult, Mr. Spencer just does not understand.

When he goes to New York, he runs into his older brother's former girlfriend, who is a huge "phony." His favorite teacher, Mr. Antolini, gives Holden some really good advice, but unfortunately, Antolini sabatoges his own advice because while he is giving it, he is drinking heavily and getting drunk. Holden observes that the advice may not be valid when given by a drunk, and when he awakens to Mr. Antolini stroking his head, he automatically assumes it is an advance, and flees. This shows he does not trust adults because he automatically assumes the worst.

Finally, the only people that Holden feels comfortable around are children - his deceased brother Allie, and his little sister Phoebe. Everyone else is a phony.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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