The world has become more unsafe, this is shown by the many examples of violence experienced around us. Humans are hurting each other like animals without any remorse. To make matters worse these actions are committed by adults upon other adults. In The Catcher in the Rye,a novel written by J.D. Salinger,is a book about a teenager trying to find a way to be true to himself while growing up in a world full of phonies. Holden Caulfield is the novel’s narrator and protagonist. He is a junior just expelled from school due to academic failure. Holden narrates in a tired and sarcastic voice despite his intelligence and sensitivity. In his interaction with other characters he discovers their hypocrisy and the ugliness of the world which he finds almost unbearable. He tries to protect himself from the disappointment and pain of the world through the use of cynicism. Through other small characters we are able to discover the inaction, phoniness and the judgmental nature of Holden Caulfield.
In the novel we get to learn of the death of Holden’s brother known as Allie. Being a minor character we are able to learn that Holden has a problem in letting go the trauma he went through when his brother died. When his brother died, Holder hurt his right hand fist which he went ahead to use in a fist fight and this was not the right decision. He narrates that, “It probably would’ve hurt him a lot, but I did it with my right hand, and I can’t make a good fist with that hand.” (Salinger 43). Using the fist that had been injured when mourning his brother is therefore self-defeating and due to this he ends up being punched by Stradlater who is also another minor character.
Another instance where the audience learns of the inaction by Holden is when he forms a snowball and does not want to part away with it. He goes to the school bus with it and narrates, “The bus driver opened the doors and made me throw it out. I told him I wasn’t going to chuck it at anybody, but he wouldn’t believe me. People never believe you.” (Salinger 36-37). The bus driver makes him throw the snowball away and this instance is important. It helps readers learn of Holden’s cynicism and his reluctance to make decision thereby inaction. In the novel we also get to learn that Holden is also phony despite accusing other characters especially adults of phoniness.
The most famous phrase from the novel is probably phoniness. He uses this term to describe everything that is wrong committed by adults running from hypocrisy, shallowness, superficiality all the way to pretension. He uses this excuse for his cynical isolation. Holden argues that the world is black and white and therefore categorizes people he meets as either being good or phony. While doing this he also forgets to check himself. He has a cruel deception that is also pointless and he eventually notes that he is a compulsive liar.
A good example is where he perpetrates a prank on Mrs. Morrow, he narrates “You take a guy like Morrow that’s always snapping their towel at people’s asses—really trying to hurt somebody with it” (Salinger 57). He uses abusive language on Morrow despite having pranked his mother. Another instance that we get to learn of his phoniness is where he describes another character using bad names by narrating that, “Sensitive, that killed me. That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a goddamn toilet seat.” (Salinger 55). By referring to Morrow as a toilet seat we get to see the abusive side of Holder courtesy of the minor character Morrow. Apart from being indecisive and phony, Holden is also judgmental on almost anything he comes in contact with.
Holden is a peculiar character and one of his peculiar behaviors is how he is judgmental on many things and people that he meets. He criticizes people as being insecure, boring and phony. He writes of how other people, who are acting what would be seen to be normal as rather being phony. He says that “That guy had just about everything. Sinus trouble, pimples, lousy teeth, halitosis, crumby fingernails. You had to feel a little sorry for that crazy sonuvabitch.” (Salinger 39). You can’t help but pity the person being referred to. Holden judges him and body shames him using different parts of his body. In another incidence Holden cannot help himself in judging another character, Ernie, by saying that, “’He’s so good he’s almost corny, in fact. I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it. I certainly like to hear him play, but sometimes you feel like turning his goddam piano over. I think it’s because sometimes when he plays, he sounds like the kind of guy that won’t talk to you unless you’re a big shot.” (Salinger 80). Despite acknowledging that Ernie was a good piano player he still doesn’t lack negative words for the artist. In the novel, the catcher in the Rye, Holden the main character is shaped by other minor characters. Through them we are able to learn about his attitudes and behaviors.
In summary, Secondary characters in the catcher in the Rye novel are used to define the character of Holden the main character. Through his rival Stradlater and the school bus driver readers are able to know of his indecisiveness by failing to take action. Readers are also able to learn of his phoniness when he pranks Mrs. Morrow while taking the train. Finally readers also learn that Holden is judgmental by how he judges the piano player, Ernie.