The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye Themes

Themes and Colors
Phoniness Theme Icon
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Catcher in the Rye, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Holden constantly encounters people and situations that strike him as "phony," a word he applies to anything hypocritical, shallow, superficial, inauthentic, or otherwise fake. He sees such "phoniness" everywhere in the adult world, and believes adults are so phony that they can't even see their own phoniness. And Holden is right. Many of the characters in the novel, from Ackley and Stradlater, to Sally, to Mr. Spencer are often phony, and say and…

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From the very first scene of Catcher in the Rye, when Holden decides not to attend the football game that the rest of his school is attending, it is clear that Holden doesn't fit in. What makes The Catcher in the Rye unique, however, is not the fact that Holden is an alienated teenager, but its extremely accurate and nuanced portrayal of the causes, benefits, and costs of his isolation.

In short, alienation both…

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Like most teenagers, Holden struggles with his sexuality. He considers himself a "sex maniac," but is also completely inexperienced. In addition, he has very strong and often contradictory feelings about women. Most women, such as Bernice Krebs and Sally Hayes, he sees as utterly stupid, largely because they seem interested in boys and men, whom Holden knows from experience are up to no good. On the other hand, Holden sees Jane Gallagher as a…

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In contrast to all adults whom Holden sees as riddled with flaws and phoniness, he sees children as pure, gentle, innocent, and perfect. The characters he speaks most fondly about in the novel are all children: Allie, Phoebe, and the poor boy he hears singing the song about the "catcher in the rye." He constantly dreams up schemes to escape growing up, such as fleeing to a New England cabin or working on…

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If "phony" is the most frequently repeated word in The Catcher in the Rye, "crazy," "madman," and "depressed" rank close behind it. Because Holden is the narrator of the novel, and because he seems in so many ways to be a typical teenager battling typical teenage issues of identity, it seems like he is using these words for effect. In other words, when he says he's crazy he seems to mean that he's acting…

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