Hypocrisy is found in all of us. Many of us have things about ourselves that we don’t want to share with others, and try to hide; perhaps we are trying to hide our hypocrisy. In The Catcher in the Rye, J. D. Salinger expresses through Holden Caulfield that hypocrisy results from not being able to connect with others. Although Holden accuses others of being phony, in reality, Holden is a phony himself and as a result of his hypocrisy, he is unable to connect with others, suggesting that to connect with others one must be able to accept other people’s flaws.
Holden defines others as phonies because he is critical and has a negative utlook on the world and the people in it. When Holden makes observations of other people he often defines them as phony. For example, when Holden goes to the movies he observes a lady sitting next to him who is crying during the movie, “The part that got me was, there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through the goddam picture. The phonier it got, the more she cried… she had this little kid with her that was bored as hell and had to go to the bathroom but she wouldn’t take him… You take somebody that cries their goddam eyes out over phony stuff in the movies, and nine times out of ten they’re mean bastards at heart. I’m not kidding” (181).
Holden thinks that the woman crying is a phony because she is emotional about a movie which is fake, yet she does not feel bad for the kid who is sitting next to her in real life, who has to go to the bathroom. A woman crying at a movie is what Holden observes and defines as phony behavior. Holden’s negative outlook on the world and the people in it just pushes Holden farther and farther away from people. He is isolating himself. In addition, Holden thinks some words or phrases are phony. When Holden is talking on the phone with a girl he knows, Sally, who says something that
Holden thinks is phony. “I’d love to. Grand. ” Grand. If there’s one word I hate, it’s grand. It’s so phony”(106). Holden thinks that the word grand is phony, which may be true to Holden; although the more energy he spends on pointing out “phonies” the more isolated and unhappy he becomes. Holden is a hypocrite because he is sometimes aware that he is being a phony himself. Holden thinks that he needs to hide his true self from people in order to “survive”. When Holden is out at Ernie’s and meets up with a girl he knows, Lillian, Holden says something to the Navy guy who was with Lillian that Holden considers phony.
Holden addresses the reader, “I’m always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though” (87). Holden lies to the navy guy, and also says that he lies to other people when saying this phrase. Although Holden is acting phony, and therefore hypocritical, he is aware of it. He acts phony because he is afraid that sharing his true self with others will interfere with him connecting with others; Holden thinks that he will turn people away because he is different. Holden is different because he is critical, and also eeply caring and emotional.
Holden is trying to act like a regular guy so people will like him and be willing to talk with him. Holden is striving to make a connection with someone; anyone. He is just looking for anyone to talk to and make a connection with, but he is afraid to open up to them. Holden tries to fit in with others by being phony when in reality, he hates how most people act. Holden tries not to show his hatred of phonies because then, people would soon realize that Holden is a phony himself. At Ernie’s when Holden meets up with the navy guy, introduced to him by Lillian, Holden hares his true thoughts about the navy guy’s actions with the reader. Holden says, “He was one of those guys that think they’re being a pansy if they don’t break around forty of your fingers when they shake hands with you. God, I hate that stuff” (86-87).
Holden doesn’t like the expectations put on men to act tough; this makes Holden feel insecure. Holden feels that he must hide that he is caring and emotional by being phony. In addition, Holden is sometimes unaware that he is being phony. For example, when he asks his taxi driver Horwitz a question, Holden is unaware that he is being phony. “Hey, Horwitz,” I said. “You ever pass by the lagoon in central park? Down by central park south? ”… “Well, you know the ducks that swim around in it? In the springtime and all? Do you happen to know where they go in the wintertime, by any chance (81)? ”’ Holden asks Horwitz where the ducks go in the winter time because he is unknowingly comparing his situation to the ducks in the lagoon; Holden wants to know where he goes now that it is “winter time” and his lagoon, Pencey prep, has frozen. Throughout the book, Holden struggles to find a place where he belongs. He also strives to connect with people.
Holden is reluctant to share his true self with people. Asking Horwitz where the ducks go is one of Holden’s “phony” attempts at making a connection with someone. When Holden acts phony, he shields his true self from people which keeps him from connecting with others. Holden dislikes phonies, and he often criticizes people for being phony, although Holden acts phony himself because he is insecure about himself, which leads to Holden acting phony. J. D. Salinger expresses through Holden that when trying to connect with others, one must act like themselves. Hypocrisy is often inevitable; all of us exhibit hypocrisy.
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