Holden Caulfield is one of the most hypocritical characters in literature. He spends the entire book complaining about all of the ‘phonies’ around him when in truth he is one of the biggest phonies of all. Throughout the novel, there are many events where Holden exemplifies his hypocrisy. There are three primary examples. Holden first displays hypocrisy when he met Earnest Morrow’s mother on the train on his way to New York. Also, when he speaks about Stradlater’s sexual advances and his own. Finally, excellent examples of Holden’s hypocritical actions are the several times he goes to the bars while in New York.
Holden boarded a late train to New York where an attractive older woman chose to sit right next to him instead of any of the other seats in the cart. The woman noticed Holden had a Pencey Prep sticker on his suitcase and asked if he went there and if he knew her son, Ernest Morrow. Holden says yes and the woman was very happy and sweet. However, Holden truly exemplifies his own personal phoniness when she asks him what his name was. Holden quickly said, ‘Rudolf Schmidt,’ who was actually the janitor at Pencey.
Holden then started, “shooting the old crap around a little bit” (Salinger 71). Holden told some of the most absurd lies to Mrs. Morrow about her son. He referred to Ernest like they were good friends when he said, ” Old Ernie” He’s one of the most popular boys at Pencey” (73). Then Holden ” Really started chucking the old crap around” (73). Holden then starts telling lies about the class elections and how a bunch of kids wanted old Ernie to be president, and that he was the unanimous vote, and how he thought he’d really be able to handle the job (Salinger 74).
Meanwhile, when Holden thinks about Ernest Morrow, he referred to him as “doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey, in the whole crumby history of the school” (71). This alone shows how even though Holden has a problem with people who are fake to him; he has no problem being fake to other people. Also, when Mrs. Morrow asks why he is leaving Pencey early, he lies once again and says he is going for an operation on a brain tumor. This one quick event in the novel shows how Holden doesn’t recognize his own absurd hypocrisy and creates double tandards for him and others without any regard to what he is actually doing.
At Pencey, Holden has a roommate named Stradlater, whom Holden thinks is a promiscuous jerk that has a very easy time getting girls. In the beginning of the story, Holden complains about Stradlater calling him names such as a sexy bastard because of the way he uses girls so loosely and freely for his own sexual pleasures. However, Holden later contradicts himself when he becomes ‘a little horny’; he decides to call a girl named Faith Cavendish.
Holden has never met Faith but had heard of her at a party from one of his friends. Holden called her because his friend told him that she didn’t mind having sex with people just for fun. This directly goes back to what he says about Stradlater creating yet another double standard between him and others. This example of hypocrisy from Holden truly shows his disregard for his opinions on other people and how they compare to his own actions. Holden furthers his phoniness when he accepts an offer for a prostitute to visit him in his room.
Although he did not use the prostitute for sex and instead tries to talking to her, he still shows how he doesn’t realize that what he is doing is actually becoming the image of a man he detested. Another significant example of Holden’s phoniness can be seen several times in the novel when he goes to bars to try to pick up women and drink whiskey. Holden loves his smart, younger sister phoebe, and his perfect, diseased brother, Allie, because they haven’t grown up or lost their innocence. Holden loves little kids but doesn’t like adults because they’re all phonies to him.
Holden also doesn’t like the idea of women or anything sexual. That is why he wants to be “the catcher in the rye” (224). Holden’s personality shows that he is terrified of growing up and that he wants to maintain his innocence as long as possible, yet he constantly tries to keep the image of an older, suave man in order to get women and alcohol at the bars. Instead of maintaining his innocence, he desperately tries to look older in order to get alcohol and in one case pick up several women, completely disregarding his morals. One of Holden’s biggest judgments of people is if they’re a phony or not.
Holden thinks that adults, movies, and anything mainstream is phony. He doesn’t like his brother D. B. because he went out to Hollywood to write movies and that makes him a phony. Holden also thinks religion is phony, but yet he loves Jesus. Holden accuses just about everything in the world around him as being phony, but in actuality, Holden is the biggest phony of all. He is very hypocritical of people and things. He claims he hates the movies but yet whenever a new one comes out, he must go see it, and he doesn’t like religion but yet when he visits nuns, he likes them a lot and doesn’t think they’re phonies.
Holden is a hypocrite throughout the entire book but never admits to being a phony himself. As a reader, this makes it quite difficult to trust Holden. Since Holden is our narrator, all of the people he mentions are views of them through his opinion, and since he isn’t trustworthy, the reader has to be doubtful of the information Holden gives. Some might argue that Holden just likes to lie. Holden Caulfield is one of the biggest hypocritical characters in literature.
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