Why Does Holden Caulfield Always Lie In The Catcher In The Rye? There's Underlying Reasons

1058 words - 4 pages

As Holden Caulfield states on page sixteen of The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, "I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life...It's terrible." But his lies are not used for simple reasons--he uses deceptive techniques in order to escape personal relations. After the death of his brother, Allie, Holden alienates himself to prevent personal bonds. When his self-inflicted alienation is threatened by attempts at personal connection, Holden uses lying and deception as ways to keep him from feeling the same pain he felt after Allie died, which prevents personal situations. Due to Holden's dislike for situations on the personal level in The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger, he decides to lie and deceive everyone in order to direct attention away from himself, prevent others from revealing his own faults, and to keep himself out of trouble.

Holden Caulfield uses lying and deception as a way out of personal situations in order to direct attention away from himself. Frequently, Holden is asked questions that are too personal for him to answer. For example, Holden lies to Ackley when he asks too many questions about what the fight between him and Stradlater was about. Holden lies and tells Ackley the fight was over him although it was actually about the events of Stradlater's date with Jane Gallagher. This got Ackley excited, and the subject quickly became Ackley and not Holden. Holden uses a similar measure of deception in his talk with Mrs. Morrow. When Mrs. Morrow notices Holden's Pencey Prep sticker on his suitcase, she asks him some personal questions such as if he likes Pencey or not. Instead of answering fully, Holden starts to explain her son, Ernest's, fine, yet false, qualities. When he states, "You take somebody's mother, all they want to hear about is what a hot-shot their son is," it hints at the transfer of attention to Mrs. Morrow and her interest in her son (Salinger 56). As seen in both situations, Holden cannot stand being the center of attention. As this happens, he strikes back with smart comments that shift the weight of the talk away from him. In conclusion, Holden cannot handle being personal in conversation, and would prefer that others be the center of attention.

In addition, Holden uses lies and deception to prevent the revealing of his faults. Holden is a person that is quick to point out the others' weaknesses but becomes insecure when others point out his own because they are personal. For example, when Holden talks to Mr. Spencer, he explains Holden's lack of effort by reading his composition aloud. Holden states "I wouldn't've read it out loud to him if he'd written it... I'd only written that damn note so that he wouldn't feel too bad about flunking me,"...

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