The Catcher in the Rye Essential Quotes by Theme: Phoniness
by J. D. Salinger

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Essential Quotes by Theme: Phoniness

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 13

...If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin. I really am. I’ve had quite a few opportunities to lose my virginity and all, but I’ve never got around to it yet. Something always happens. For instance, if you’re at a girl’s house, her parents always come home at the wrong time—or you’re afraid they will. Or if you’re in the back seat of somebody’s car, there’s always somebody’s date in the front seat—some girl, I mean—that always wants to know what’s going on all over the whole goddam car. I mean some girl in front keeps turning around to see what the hell’s going on. Anyway, something always happens. I came quite close to doing it a couple of times, though. One time in particular, I remember. Something went wrong, though—I don’t even remember what any more. The thing is, most of the time when you’re coming pretty close to doing it with a girl—a girl that isn’t a prostitute or anything, I mean—she keeps telling you to stop. The trouble with me is, I stop. Most guys don’t. I can’t help it. You never know whether they really want you to stop, or whether they’re just scared as hell, or whether they’re just telling you to stop so that if you do go through with it, the blame’ll be on you, not them. Anyway, I keep stopping. The trouble is, I get to feeling sorry for them. I mean most girls are so dumb and all. After you neck them for a while, you can really watch them losing their brains. You take a girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn’t any brains. I don’t know. They tell me to stop, so I stop. I always wish I hadn’t, after I take them home, but I keep doing it anyway.

Instead of going home, Holden decides to spend the night in a cheap hotel. On the way up to his room, the elevator operator offers to acquire for him the services of a prostitute. He agrees, and prepares for her arrival. He confesses to the reader that he is a virgin. He makes several excuses for this personal “deficiency,” claiming that there is always a flaw in the circumstances in which an opportunity arose. In a moment of revelation, Holden states that he always stops his advances if the girls asks him to. Unlike the other boys he knows, who always brag about how much they have “done it,” Holden cannot bring himself to question the girl’s words enough to push past them in order to actually make love. Holden is honest and genuine with the reader, yet once again he complains about the “phoniness” of others, in this case the girls who tell him to stop. He is not sure that they genuinely want him to stop or are in fact setting him up to take the blame should something happen. Although he often wishes that he could ignore their pleas for him to stop, Holden shows himself to be willing to take their requests at face value, rather than assume that their cries are “phony.”

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 15

While I was eating my eggs, these two nuns with suitcases and all—I guessed they were moving to another convent or something and were waiting for a train—came in and sat down next to me at the counter. They didn’t seem to know what the hell to do with their suitcases, so I gave them a hand. They were these very inexpensive-looking suitcases—the ones that aren’t genuine leather or anything. It isn’t important, I know, but I hate it when somebody has cheap suitcases. It sounds terrible to say it, but I can even get to hate somebody, just looking at them, if they have cheap suitcases with them....

Holden has left the hotel after the encounter with Maurice the elevator boy and Sunny the prostitute and gone to Grand Central Station as a place to hang out. He goes into a sandwich bar for some breakfast. While he is there, two nuns come in to eat as well. He notices their cheap suitcases and comments on them. He admits to a strong snobbishness when it comes to people’s luggage. He demands genuine leather suitcases of others, at the risk of suffering...

(The entire section is 1,703 words.)