The Catcher in the Rye: Deception and Phoniness

In the book, Catcher in the Rye, wrote by J.D. Salinger has used the term “phony” to address people, objects, and situations that are brutal. Holden’s way of saying “phony” is when someone acts fake. He thinks that when people try to portray someone who their not are phonies to him. Holden is suggesting that rejects them as humans since they aren’t “normal” like him. Holden can see the ideal conflict of our hypocritical world that we live in. He accepts that the adults are too phony that they can’t really see their own. He doesn’t want a future for himself because he knows that one day he will become an adult and he will be like the rest of them. In his eyes and thoughts, growing up means that he will become a phony and when holden meets someone new, he can tell if they are phonies or not.

Holden didn’t hesitate when he called Mr. Ossenburger, an alumnus at Pencey who made cash by executing cheap funeral and he would talk about praying to God and achieving in life before you can donate the money to Pencey and having a building named after him, a phony. In chapter 3 Holden said “… he would show up to school in this big goddam Cadillac, and we all had to stand up in the grandstand and give him a locomotive–that’s a cheer ”(p16). Holden is calling him a phony because Mr. Ossenburger always talked about how he was never ashamed as well as praying to Jesus, but he uses funerals as an opportunity to take advantage of the families who are mourning on there lost members behalf. He would always see it as a business and an easy way to make money, but Holden refers to him as cheat for talk about something he himself doesn’t follow.

Holden thinks that it’s phony to show respect to someone who doesn’t even follow his own beliefs and who finds a way to bargain people while at the same time he’s making money from it. The fact that one man is getting rich of off dead people is one example of phoniness in this world. Also, the school that Holden goes to is also phony for naming a dorm after Mr.Ossenburger for the purpose that he gave them money.

Holden has two preferences on phoniness which are to lie and to continue being a kid mentally not physically. Holden mentioned that he is ”the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life”(p16). As Holden continues to believe this, he is being a crook and is also fighting against the inevitable. He is trying to dodge phoniness by any means. Holden thinks that by not growing up he will continue to be “innocent” and real but in reality, he can’t avoid growing up. He is deceitful to himself and the more he keeps lying to himself, the more he is going to fail in life.

He’s already irresponsible, in the way he spends his money and the attempt he puts into school, violent, and immature, for having the understanding that he doesn’t want to grow up. I think that Holden’s fear of becoming a phony is bigger than that. Since Holden thinks that adults are phony, he struggles to grow up and stumbles to join with the rest of them in the world. His alternative would be to conserve his innocence since it’s the opposite to phoniness and the only way that people can be genuine.

Holden thinks a lot about Phoebe’s childhood innocence. In Chapter 10, Holden mentions his sister. “You’d like her. I mean if you tell old Phoebe something, she knows exactly what the hell you’re talking about. I mean you can even take her anywhere with you.” Holden has a lot of fondness for his sister and they connect so well. She is one of the few people he doesn’t consider as “phony”. Phoebe’s’ actions show Holden how angelic she is compared to the outside world, the “adult world” that takes innocence. If Phoebe were to enter our world, she would end up turning phony. By these means, Holden does not want to be phony. But yet again, it’s irresistible because he’s already one for being a crook and trying to avoid adulthood.

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The catcher in the rye: deception and phoniness. (2021, May 20). Retrieved August 9, 2022 , from

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