The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield Quotes Page 12
"Oh, how lovely! Perhaps you know my son, then, Ernest Morrow? He goes to Pencey."
"Yes, I do. He's in my class."
Her son was doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey, in the whole crumby history of the school. He was always going down the corridor, after he'd had a shower, snapping his soggy old wet towel at people's asses. That's exactly the kind of a guy he was.
"Oh, how nice!" the lady said. But not corny. She was just nice and all. "I must tell Ernest we met," she said. "May I ask your name, dear?"
"Rudolf Schmidt," I told her. I didn't feel like giving her my whole life history. Rudolf Schmidt was the name of the janitor of our dorm. (8.9-13)
There’s literally no reason for Holden to lie here: he’s not in trouble (exactly), he’s not running away from school—he just doesn’t “feel” like telling the truth. So, why isn’t this phony?
She had a terrifically nice smile. She really did. Most people have hardly any smile at all, or a lousy one. "Ernest's father and I sometimes worry about him," she said. "We sometimes feel he's not a terribly good mixer."
"How do you mean?"
"Well. He's a very sensitive boy. He's really never been a terribly good mixer with other boys. Perhaps he takes things a little more seriously than he should at his age."
Sensitive. That killed me. That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat. (8.9-23)
Holden knows Ernest is a jerk, but he indulges Mrs. Morrow anyway. She’s deceiving herself; he’s letting her deceive herself; and he’s, well, deceiving her. And he’s doing it just to be nice. Important lesson: sometimes you have to lie to be nice. Is this part of why Holden seems to hate everything so much—because either you’re an honest jerk or a lying nice boy?
At the end of the first act we went out with all the other jerks for a cigarette. What a deal that was. You never saw so many phonies in all your life, everybody smoking their ears off and talking about the play so that everybody could hear and know how sharp they were. Some dopey movie actor was standing near us, having a cigarette. […] He was with some gorgeous blonde, and the two of them were trying to be very blasé and all, like as if he didn't even know people were looking at him. Modest as hell. I got a big bang out of it. (17.14)
Oh, yeah, Holden is practically ROFLing with how funny he finds this. It’s like he’s trying to find all the phoniness amusing, but the bitterness just keeps seeping through.