Holden Caulfield, protagonist of the Holden Caulfield wants to be a child forever and imagines his family as “phony” people, unhappy with their job as parents. The Holden’s family is too much like the rest of adults he sees: phony. Holden believes that children are innocent and thus they don’t lie; Holden wishes he was a child again. Holden’s issues with his family are related to Holden’s difficulty accepting adulthood and its rules.
The Caulfield family has financial problems, Holden is at odds with his older brother, Holden doesn’t follow the rules of society, his parents try too hard to make him happy. Holden’s family values are often opposite to Holden’s thoughts and actions throughout “The Catcher in the Rye”. Holden dislikes adults because they lie about things that don’t matter instead of being honest about issues that do matter; Holden rebels against this societal expectation by lying frequently himself. With all the lies adults tell Holden believes their words undervalue what really matters.
As children Holden believes people live more honestly than they do as adults. Holden never lies while he is a child, but his values contradict this claim. Holden does tell few white lies to protect others, but he also has several fights with teachers because Holden believes they are teaching him what to think instead of how to think for himself. Holden’s parents are too nice to Holden and do not force Holden to accept responsibility for his actions, which makes Holden feel young and immature.
This contradicts Holden’s belief that children live more honestly than adults; they lie less often because they don’t understand or care about adult issues like sex before marriage or the consequences of pregnancy. The truth value in Holden’s statement might come from his lack of understanding about adult issues; he claims people up problems when there is nothing wrong with them. Holden doesn’t understand adult issues, so Holden believes that people ignore problems in order to make their lives better.
Holden hates his brother Allie because Holden thinks his parents love Allie more than they do Holden. Holden is jealous of Allie because Holden feels he has been deprived of the childhood he should have had, without a death in the family that would keep him from growing up too fast. Holden always fights with teachers and adults instead of asking for help when Holden needs it most; this makes it difficult for Holden to ask for help when he struggles in school.
This negative interaction with authority figures contributes to Holden’s perception of adults as dishonest phonies who don’t share real values with children like Holden. The Caulfield family has an absent mother; Holden’s mother does not interact with Holden and his brother much, which Holden feels contributes to Holden’s feeling like an unloved child. Holden wants attention from his parents but he doesn’t try to get it because Holden thinks their lack of communication shows that they don’t love him enough. Applying the Material:
People often state that children are more honest than adults, but this statement is difficult to rationalize in real life because children take honesty for granted while adults must put extra effort into being truthful. The Catcher in the Rye analyzes Holden’s family situation and introduces readers to Holden’s thought process, or lack thereof. Remembering how Holden acts when someone mentions his family helps put Holden’s thought process in perspective for readers. Holden acts more childishly than the children around him because Holden is immature, Holden isn’t a real child because he has experienced too many adult problems.
Holden’s family is described as “phony” many times throughout The Catcher in the Rye. Holden has his own perceptions regarding what he sees as “phony. ” Holden had some knowledge of his parents’ previous relationships, so Holden describes some members of his family as “phonies” due to their past infidelities. To Holden, any kind of lie or falsehood is phony because it goes against something that Holden values highly: honesty. For Holden, the most important family member was Allie. He idolized Allie and thought very highly of him, even wanting to become a catcher just like him when he grew up.
Holden liked Allie because he embodied everything about being a caring person. With Allie gone from this world, Holden felt cheated. Holden’s family had the opportunity to see Allie before he died, but Holden did not have this privilege. Holden was very angry with his parents for letting him miss Allie one last time. Holden had a brother named D. B. , who Holden called “Phony Dave. ” Holden gave Phony Dave this nickname because D. B. ‘s wife cheated on him and took all of his money when they divorced (D. B. later got remarried).
Holden saw D. B. ‘s situation as hypocritical due to the fact that D. B. , while married, also cheated on Holden’s sister, Phoebe; thus making their divorce hypocritical by Holden’s standards too because it would mean that people can’t learn from their mistakes. Holden resented D. B. ‘s family for not wanting to talk to Holden at his job. Holden felt that they all hated him because he had the same “phony” disposition as Phony Dave, and Holden could not blame them for their feelings toward him. Even though Holden’s father was a very successful business man, Holden thought that his dad was a phony too because he never talked about his past.
Holden wanted to know what his dad did before Holden was born, but Mr. Caulfield would always change the subject whenever Holden asked where he grew up or how he met Holden’s mother. These answers were important to Holden so that he could have some context regarding who his parents once were before they became successful adults with Holden. Holden hated his parents for not wanting to tell Holden about their past because Holden saw it as a time period that was full of happiness and innocence before they gave it all up to have Holden, someone who Holden felt put them in the position of being “phony” again.
One other member of Holden’s family that Holden described as phony was Phoebe. Phoebe had her own set of values that Holden did not necessarily agree with, which is why he thought she was a phony too. The most notable example of this is when Holden describes her prayer at the dinner table: “I don’t even know what I’m praying about anymore when I pray. ” This quote represents how Holden sees religion in general–a concept that is very important to Holden but he does not think that it is something that should be used as a crutch.
Holden felt that Phoebe was using religion as an excuse for bad behavior, which Holden thought was hypocritical because she would always be angry with Holden’s lack of dedication to a formal religion. The overall theme about Holden’s family is how they are all different from each other and have gone through tragedies in their lives. Holden resented his brother and sister for going through problems similar to those he had been experiencing at Pencey, but Holden also saw this as hypocritical because Holden experienced many of the same problems too.