“You ought to go to a boy’s school sometimes. Try it sometime,” I said. “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 some day, 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. The guys that are on the basketball team stick together, the goddam intellectuals stick together, the guys that play bridge stick together. Even the guys that belong to the goddam Book-of-the-Month Club stick together. (Salinger, 170) The selected passage above portrays Holden’s adolescent view of society which he sees as corrupt and in which he cannot seem to function. The passage shows how he alienates himself from society as a whole. Throughout the novel, Holden attacks various aspects of humanity and is hypercritical of everyone and everything around him. Holden’s writing style in the passage reflects this conflict within him. Salinger uses diction in this work to show Holden’s maturity level as well as his hostility towards those around him. In addition, Holden’s first person narrative voice reveals his fears and insecurities.
The author also uses the frenetic pace of Holden’s narrative to portray the characters increasing anxieties as the novel progresses. Holden’s tone fluctuates throughout the novel and he constantly repeats the same words and ideas as a way of making the reader sense the conflicts within him. This passage depicts Holden Caulfield’s alienation from society on his journey from childhood to adulthood, and eventually the toll it takes on his mental state. Holden frequently uses the word “phonies” throughout the novel to refer to what he sees as the hypocrisy of the world around him.
To Holden, schools such as Pency and the other prep schools he attended represent all that Holden believes is superficial or phony. As a result of getting kicked out of school, Holden puts the idea in his head that now he can accomplish something and separate himself from the phonies. Sadly, Holden doesn’t just categorize the boys at school phonies but he seems to consider almost every type of person he comes across a phony. The use of the word “Phonies” shows his attitude towards adults and adulthood and also his maturity level. Holden’s colloquial style of speaking r his narrative voice help to reveal his fears and anxieties about adulthood. For instance, Holden begins to talk about future professions. Although he is interested in the practice of law he is thrown off by whether the true purpose is to actually help out an innocent person or to achieve success. The same idea is depicted through his attitude about his brother D. B. Holden classifies D. B as a “phony” because he has a remarkable talent in writing, but threw it away when he moved to Hollywood for a career in movie writing. To Holden, Children are the only people who are not phonies.
He thinks so highly of Phoebe because she is so innocent. Holden feels at peace when he hears the boy singing the Catcher In The Rye song when he walks down the street. Another theme of the novel highlighted in this passage is Holden’s concern with the pressures of a teenager growing up. Through the use of repetition the reader understands Holden’s conflicting emotions and apprehension when it comes to women, alcohol, and sex. The tone of this conversation with Sally in the passage is extremely aggressive. Throughout the novel the tone fluctuates between calm and straightforward to frantic and erratic.
In this particular passage Holden is so antagonistic and passionate in his speech that he confuses and frightens Sally. She asks him not to shout and says she doesn’t have any idea what he’s talking about. From Holden’s aggressive tone we as readers can feel the fragility of his mental state. Earlier in the novel we see Holden’s uneasiness about girls and sex when Stradlater takes Jane out on a date. Holden says, “ I kept thinking about Jane, and about Stradlater having a date with her and all. It made me so nervous I nearly went crazy. I already told you what a sexy bastard Stradlater was. (Salinger 44-45) Another one of Holden’s obsessions is alcohol. He constantly goes to different bars where he is able to order drinks because of his height and grey hair. Again we see his maturity level when Holden becomes out of hand when he drinks. For example, the night he became extremely drunk and he spoke to Sally like a madman over the phone. The fact the Holden constantly smokes also indicates Holden’s desperate need for help and guidance. Sadly, His inability to cope with his journey into adulthood ultimately results in his breakdown. This passage highlights Holden’s feeling of total disconnection to all of the people around him.
We are able to understand through Holden’s narrative perspective that he is not able to place himself anywhere among his peers when he lists all of the cliques and groups to which he does not belong. In many ways this outlook is typical of any adolescent boy but Holden clearly is struggling beyond what most would consider normal. The fact that the reader knows at the beginning of the novel that Holden is still struggling with all of these problems makes us both sympathetic and frustrated with the lack of support he receives from anyone throughout his journey.
It is understandable that Holden is stressed considering he is going through hormonal changes, obviously he is still grieving over the death of his brother, he witnesses a suicide, and he seems to not adult figure to turn to. This section of the novel ultimately foreshadows Holden’s breakdown. Just before this passage he says to Sally, “did you ever get fed up? ” I said. “ I mean did you ever get scarred that everything was going lousy unless you did something? I mean do you like school, and all that stuff? ” (Salinger 169. ) This quote clearly connects to Holden’s ultimate breakdown.
Throughout the novel, Holden seems to be excluded from and victimized by the world around him. As he says to Mr. Spencer, he feels trapped on “the other side” of life, and he continually attempts to find his way in a world in which he feels he doesn’t belong. This passage highlights that aspect of the novel. Through his use of the characters tone, voice, perspective, repletion, and pace the author shows Holden to be an emotionally unstable boy. This passage shows the extreme nature of Holden’s alienation. As Phoebe accurately states towards the end of the novel, “you don’t like anything that’s happening. ” (Salinger 220)