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Catcher in the Rye
Transcript of Catcher in the Rye
What is Phoniness?
How does Catcher in the Rye show phoniness?
Quotes relating to phoniness
Phoniness means someone is a fraud or is being fake for personal gain, or to damage another individual.
The most noticeable of Holden's peculiarities is how judgemental is he about everything and everyone. Holden criticizes people who are boring, people who are insecure, and most of all, people who are 'phony.' Holden applies the term phony not to people who are insincere, but to those who are too conventional and too typical. 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.
Phoniness is probably the most famous phrase from The Catcher in the Rye. It is one of Holden’s favourite concepts as he uses it to describe how superficial, hypocritical and shallow the world around him is. He sees such phoniness everywhere in the adult world, and believes adults are so phony that they can’t even see their own phoniness. And to be honest, Holden is right about it too. Many characters from the novel, from Ackley and Stradlater to Mr.Spencer are often phony and say and do things that keep up appearance rather than reflect what they truly think and feel. Even though Holden is right that people are phony, Catcher in the Rye makes it clear that Holden’s hatred of phoniness is self-destructive. Although Holden uses so much energy searching for phoniness in others, he never directly observes his own phoniness.
For Holden, phoniness stands as an emblem of everything that is wrong in the world and it provides an excuse for him to withdraw into isolation. Holden observations are not entirely inaccurate however, they are oversimplified. Holden would like us to believe that he is a ‘paragon of virtue’ in a world of phoniness, but that simply isn’t the case. Holden is his own counterevidence and he cannot adhere to the same black and white standards with which he judges other people. In the end what Mr. Antolini is trying to make Holden see is that while this "phoniness" is harmful and hurtful, it doesn't make people evil or worthy of hate. It makes them human. Holden, in effect, is wishing that the world could be inhuman, something that it can never be.
The obvious character that is affected by phoniness is Holden because whenever he interacts with adults, he is exposed to their phoniness. Holden believes all adults are phonies and he thinks that as soon as you become an adult, you immediately become a phony also, such as when Holden is in the nightclub, and everyone is listening to "Ernie" play the piano. When he finishes, the crowd applauds wildly, and Holden observes "all the phonies went mad with joy". He also observes that Ernie bows "like he's this real humble guy or something". He describes the entire nighclub by saying "the place was crawling with phonies".
"'It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac someday, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques'" (Page 131)
“If I were a piano player, I’d play it in the goddamn closet. Anyway, when he finished and everybody was clapping their hands off, old Ernie turned around on his stool and gave this very phony, humble bow. Like as if he was a helluva humble guy, besides being a terrific piano player. It was very phony – I mean him being such a big snob and all.” (Page 77)
All of these quotes connect to the theme, due to them all being about phonies and so on; Holden really has a problem with phonies, he hates having to be around them, being in their atmosphere gets him agitated and annoyed. He doesn’t like to be around the hypocritical, artificial people he calls phonies, he can’t deal with the confrontation and all the deceptions
“Grand. There’s a word I really hate. It’s phony. I could puke every time I hear it.” (Page 8) – Holden really dislikes phonies, him seeing them as forged people.
“One of the biggest reasons why I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all. They were coming in the goddamn window. For instance they had this headmaster, Mr Haas that was the phoniest bastard I’ve ever met in my life. ” (Page 12)
“I got up off Ely’s bed, and started toward the door. I didn’t want to hang around that stupid atmosphere any more. I stopped on the way, though, and picked up Ackley’s hand, and gave him a big phony handshake.”(Page 44)