Ambivalence in "The Catcher in the Rye"
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Holden uses the word „phony” to describe someone who is insincere or fake. He first uses “phony” to describe Selma Thurmer’s father: “She probably knew what a phony slob he (her father) was”. Pencey headmaster Mr.Haas is even phonier than Thurmer . He would avoid people because of how they look. For example, if someone’s parent is fat he would shake hands with them and go off to speak with someone else. The next person Holden is critical of is Ossenburger. He runs discount funeral parlors and makes money from grieving people while preaching integrity and faith. Holden also sees movies as fake and insincere. He feels that art should be private and done for one’s self rather than the public. He calls his own brother a ‘prostitute’ for working in Hollywood.
Holden is bothered by the hypocrisy of those around him, but he fails to see it within himself. He says he dislikes “phony” people, yet often acts as someone else himself and admits to being a spectacular liar. This makes the reader doubt whether his account of his experiences is supposed to be accurate at all and makes the reader look at the story in more levels than one.
Ambivalence is one of the major themes of the book. Inner conflicts plague the main character as they probably would any person going through the period in life when everyone has to find their way.
- Ambivalence in "The Catcher in the Rye"
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