Catcher in the Rye Critical Inquiry

Topics: Lie, Deception, Fraud Pages: 5 (1755 words) Published: February 27, 2012
Throughout the entire novel, The Catcher In The Rye, Holden finds himself lying to avoid certain situations. He even openly admits that he is a terrific liar. Holden lies for numerous reasons; at times, he feels depressed and lies for his own amusement to keep himself from thinking of his own gloomy life. When Holden feels uncomfortable or embarrassed, he lies in order to get himself out of those situations. He often lies about other people to keep them from knowing what Holden really thinks of them. Holden lies constantly, because in his own life, he cannot accept the truth. The obvious signs that Holden is a troubled and unreliable narrator are manifold: he fails out of four schools; he manifests complete apathy toward his future; he is hospitalized, and visited by a psychoanalyst, for an unspecified complaint; and he is unable to connect with other people. Through his lying and deception, Holden indicates that he is just as phony as the people he criticizes.            The most noticeable of Holden’s peculiarities is how extremely judgmental he is of almost everything and everybody. He criticizes and philosophizes about people who are boring, people who are insecure, and, above all, people who are “phony.” Holden carries this penchant for passing judgment to such an extreme that it often becomes extremely funny, such as when he speculates that people are so crass that someone will probably write “fuck you” on his tombstone. Holden applies the term “phony” not to people who are insincere but to those who are too conventional or too typical—for instance, teachers who “act like” teachers by assuming a different demeanor in class than they do in conversation, or people who dress and act like the other members of their social class. “QUOTE” While Holden uses the label “phony” to imply that such people are superficial; his use of the term actually indicates that his own perceptions of other people are superficial. Holden believes that only others lie intentionally to give the allusion that they are someone else, when in reality, he is the one who’s façade prevents legitimate human connection. In almost every case, he rejects more complex judgments of others in favor of simple categorical ones. Holden doesn’t realize it, but the web of lies he tells throughout his journey make him phony too.

           Holden bolsters his earlier claim that he is an excellent liar, as his conversation with Mrs. Morrow contains nothing but falsehoods. The only statement that he makes to Mrs. Morrow that contains any truth is that he was a student at Pencey; otherwise, all of his statements are deliberately misleading. He tells Mrs. Morrow exactly what she wants to hear about her son, humoring her own sense of vanity and self-absorption by making her believe that her son, whom Holden loathes, is one of the most honorable and decent students at Pencey. “Her son was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey, in the whole crumby history of the school…’Well. He's a very sensitive boy…Perhaps he takes things a little more seriously than he should at his age.’" These lies reveal the complete contempt that Holden holds for Mrs. Morrow and, by extension, all authority figures. He lies in order to mock Mrs. Morrow's sense of delusion while relishing the false view that she has of her son. Holden claims a sense of superiority over Mrs. Morrow, for he believes that he can see clearly Ernest Morrow's personality, while she has a false, idealized portrait of her son. Whatever her delusions, however, Holden treats Mrs. Morrow horribly. He views her either as a target for ridicule or a sexual object, as he flirts with her and even offers to buy her a drink. “QUOTE” Holden takes a typical teenage trait, lying to flatter adults, and moves it to an unbearable extreme; his lies become more shameless and outlandish, revealing the disturbing disconnect between Holden's psyche and reality.

           Later in his journey, Holden "gives the eye" to...
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