Holden Caulfield

The first chapter in “The Catcher in the Rye” is an introduction into the unsettled mind of Holden Caulfield. As a troubled adolescent boy who has seen has experienced his fair share of expulsions, Holden believes he is not the one to blame for his failure as all of the schools he is sent to are full “phony slobs” and “crooks”(Salinger 6). Through Holden’s way of painting a picture of the world around him through his very own biased filter, Salinger is able to set the scene by introducing the at first subtle themes of alienation and hypocrisy that grow throughout the novel.

The opening scene reveals Holden has just come back to the estranged setting that is Pencey prep from being “ostracized...the whole way back” by the fencing team for losing their equipment (Salinger 6). Now when Analyzing Pencey prep through Holden’s narration it can be inferred that Caulfield is not very well liked by others as he is “standing way the hell up on top of Thomsen Hill” watching the game on his own while everyone else is together in the stands (Salinger 3). Early on he attempts to mask his very own detachment to others as his way of pushing them away as they simply are a bunch of frauds in the way they act trying to fit the mold that Holden desperately seems to want to pry out of. The way he introduces others in such a way that it seems that everybody he’s ever met including his very own brother is a phony trying to make it in the world. Holden’s prejudiced introduction serves very well not only to show how he does in fact see himself in comparison to others but to hint at his detachment to society in an effort to cope with life.

The opening chapters of The Catcher in the Rye do not only function to give an impression of Holden’s alienation towards society in general but also explores the theme of hatred towards hypocrisy. The way the first few chapters show Holden’s seclusion from others is by revealing the reason why he has ultimately pushed most people away from himself and why he continues to do so. Holden has a strong hatred towards “phonies” and uses them as a scapegoat to cover many of his own wrongdoings. He states that “One of the biggest reasons [he] left Elkton Hills was because [he] was surrounded by phonies” (Salinger 19). He believes that practically all people are phony especially adults and the few insecure ones trying to fake it until they fit in. This reveals Holden to be incredibly hypocritical himself especially when he reveals that he is “the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life” (Salinger 22). That is a very phony thing to be and quite hypocritical when he says that he hates anybody who acts phony when he himself is a phony. This hatred towards people who act fake stems off of his own hatred for himself and the insecurities he leads through his life with how unhappy he is with his attempts to cope with his brother’s premature death. The opening chapters do an excellent job at revealing the theme of alienation and hypocrisy through Holden’s inner conflict with himself reflected by the way he sees others.

In the beginning of the novel The Catcher in the Rye, the reader can discover the major themes within the opening chapters. The themes revealed early on are hypocrisy and alienation. These themes are uncovered early on by the way Holden introduces the reader to the world and the people around him and what he thinks of them.The way the chapters early on function by having the narrator Holden describe his acquaintances and there on we start to see the flaws he seems to hate reflected onto himself. As the book continues the reader can then infer why he hates phonies, why he has isolated himself from others, and why these are simply a coping mechanism as he deals with an unexpected loss that has altered his view of others. Salinger does an excellent job at revealing the major themes of the story early on with Holden Caulfield's narration as he introduces the reader to the world through his own perspective.