Holden and His Phony Family in The Catcher in the Rye
The protagonist, Holden Caulfield, interacts with many people throughout J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye, but probably none have as much impact on him as certain members of his immediate family. The ways Holden acts around or reacts to the various members of his family give the reader a direct view of Holden's philosophy surrounding each member.
Holden makes reference to the word "phony" forty-four separate times throughout the novel (Corbett 68-73). Each time he seems to be referring to the subject of this metaphor as -- someone who discriminates against others, is a hypocrite about something, or has manifestations of conformity (Corbett 71). Throughout The Catcher in the Rye, Holden describes and interacts with various members of his family. The way he talks about or to each gives you some idea of whether he thinks they are "phony" or normal. A few of his accounts make it more obvious than others to discover how he classifies each family member.
From the very first page of the novel, Holden begins to refer to his parents as distant and generalizes both his father and mother frequently throughout his chronicle. One example is: "...my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything personal about them. They're quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They're nice and all - I'm not saying that - but they're also touchy as hell" (Salinger 1). Holden's father is a lawyer and therefore he considers him "phony" because he views his father's occupation unswervingly as a parallel of his father's personality. For example, when Holden is talking to Phoebe about what he wants to be when he grows up, he cannot answer her question and proceeds to give her his opinion about their father's occupation..
'Lawyers are all right, I guess - but it doesn't appeal to me,' I said. 'I mean they're all right if they go around saving innocent guys' lives all the time, and like that, but you don't do that kind of stuff if you're a lawyer. All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink Martinis and look like a hot-shot. How would you know you weren't being a phony? The trouble is, you wouldn't' (Salinger 172).