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 do things that keep up appearances rather than reflect what they truly think and feel.
Yet even though Holden is right that people are phony, Catcher in the Rye makes it clear that Holden's hatred of phoniness is still self-destructive. Though Holden is constantly pointing out the phoniness in others, he is himself often phony. At various times in the novel, he tells pointless lies, claims to like or agree with statements or ideas he hates, goes out with girls he doesn't like, all to try to feel less lonely or to avoid direct confrontations. The point, then, is that, yes, people are "phony" and can't live up to Holden's wish that the world be simple, a place of black and white. But in the end what Mr. Antolini is trying to make Holden see is that while this "phoniness" is harmful and hurtful, it doesn't make people evil or worthy of hate. It makes them human. Holden, in effect, is wishing that the world could be inhuman, could be something that it never can be.
Phoniness Quotes in The Catcher in the Rye
"Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it."
Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game, all right—I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, then what's a game about it? Nothing. No game.