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Ramsha Awan
12 AP Lit & Comp
14 October, 2014

A True Phony
Hypocrites are people that criticize something and then go ahead and do that exact thing
and Holden Caulfield struggles with that. In Catcher in the Rye Holden spends the entire novel
calling other people phonies when he himself can actually be perceived as a phony as well. In
specific situations, Holden will try to act mature and experienced when in fact he is quite the
opposite. He even criticizes the privileges that his own social class has granted him. He has a
very back and forth nature that is revealed through dialogue and details.
The first instance of Holden being a hypocrite is revealed very early on in the novel.
Holden is recalling the lecture his headmaster gave him about how life is a game. Holden doesnt
verbally respond, but thinks about how unfair this game of life is. He says, If you get on the
side where all the hot-shots are, then its a game, all rightIll admit that. But if you get on the
other side, where there arent any hot-shots, then whats a game about it? Nothing. No game
(Salinger 8). Holden talks about the disadvantages of life and how unfair this game of life is, yet
he comes from a very wealthy family so what disadvantages has he faced? He has all these
opportunities given to him yet he refuses to use them to his advantage. Life does seem to be a
game to Holden because he chooses to mess around instead of applying himself. He knows his
parents will be able to afford to send him to another private school. Holdens never experienced
what life is like on the so-called other side and hell never have to because whether or not he
realizes it, hes actually a hot shot himself with the ability to afford whatever his heart desires.
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A frequent topic that comes up throughout the novel is sex and Holden likes to act like he
is very experienced sexually when the reality is that hes a virgin. One instance in particular is
when Holden orders a prostitute to his hotel room. You would think that since Holden seems so
knowledgeable about sex that he would have no trouble sleeping with a prostitute. Yet when the
moment arrives, Holden isn't able to go through with his plans and backs out because the
prostitute "made me so nervous" (97). Holden has a very contradictory nature. He likes to act
older than he really his but his immaturity shines through in situations like this where he's clearly
not ready for something as important as losing his virginity, yet he tries to delude himself into
thinking that he is.
The most common example of Holdens hypocrisy is the fact that he calls almost
everyone he encounters a phony, yet he is a phony himself. He sees phonies as fake people who
are insincere, yet he describes himself as the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life (16).
This statement is a huge contradiction to Holdens own criticism of phonies. He hates people
that lie, yet he describes himself as one of the best liars youll ever come across. How can he
judge someone else for doing exactly what hes doing? This certain form of hypocrisy plays into
why Holden is so isolated. He wants people to interact with him, yet everyone he tries to
befriend becomes a phony in his eyes and he reacts by distancing himself away from them.
Holdens whole life really seems to be one big contradiction, and this constant phony labeling
seems to have the biggest influence in how he holds himself and how he treats others. He has this
automatic assumption that everyone is a phony unless proven otherwise, and yet hes a phony
himself because he lies and has no regrets about it. So why doesnt he see himself as a phony?
His judgmental personality results in his definite lack of solid friendships with people his own
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Holden Caulfield can be a very hypocritical character. He likes to criticize people that are
privileged, yet he comes from a wealthy background himself. He tries to act experienced in the
field of sex, yet he is a virgin. Lastly, Holden constantly accuses others of being his perception of
a phony (someone who is insincere), yet he quotes himself as a wonderful liar. He craves
companionship but his contradictory nature often leads him to social isolation. Its very easy to
judge people for their actions while having a conscious/subconscious bias towards ourselves and
Holden seems to struggle with that. As a society, we cant further ourselves if we dont get past
judging others, so theres definitely a lesson to be learned through Holden about how hypocrisy
can affect our social relationships.