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< Back to question What are the themes of The Catcher in the Rye? Show more Show less

J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye is a well-known coming of age story. It has also caused controversy because of its sexual content and use of profanity. What are the themes of The Catcher in the Rye, and how does the main character, Holden Caulfield, react to the world around him?

The Catcher in the Rye is about morality Show more Show less

Holden is constantly concerned with the morality of those around him.
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Everyone is a phony

Holden Caulfield is disgusted with the fakeness of society.
The Catcher in the Rye books education literature reading
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The Argument

Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield shares his disgust in other people, specifically their "phoniness." To Holden, a phony is someone who does not show real emotion to try to fit into society.[1] Repeatedly he accuses others of being phony, including his older brother. Holden's older brother, D.B., is in the film business in Hollywood, which automatically turns him into a phony. Movies anger him. claiming that the actors never act like people. Holden continuously struggles to find morality in the world around him, believing to be surrounded by superficial people. He believes to be one of the only "real" people remaining, causing him to feel isolated and lonely. As Holden matures, he struggles to maintain his morals in a society that encourages him not to.[2]

Counter arguments

By calling other phonies, Holden is being a hypocrite. He criticizes others for being fake, yet he repeatedly lies. He first refers to himself as a "sex maniac", but later admits he is a virgin. Additionally, he claims to be "the most terrific liar he had met." Despite trying to set himself apart, Holden is still a phony since he pretends to be a person who he isn't.


[P1] Holden Caulfield thinks people are phonies. [P2] Holden Caulfield feels isolated because he is surrounded by phonies. [P3] Holden struggles to maintain his beliefs. [P4] Therefore, the theme of The Catcher in the Rye is morality.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Holden himself is a phony.



This page was last edited on Friday, 3 Apr 2020 at 10:00 UTC