The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Analysis of Chunk 5 (Chapters 12 - 14)

In this section we discover Holden's complaints with regards to society. When discussing Eddie's phoniness, Holden notes that "I felt sort of sorry for him when he was finished. I don't even think he knows any more when he's playing right or not. It isn't all his fault. I partly blame all those dopes that clap their heads off-they'd foul up anybody, if you gave them a chance." The word "playing" here is a possible allusion to the "game" of life, an analogy from chapter 2. The "dopes" whom Holden blames clearly represent that society of morons Holden has found. Holden is, in essence, blaming society for clouding up the distinction between what is real and what is phony.

In the bar it also becomes especially apparent that Holden spends much of his time simply criticizing others around him, including a discussion of a guy giving his date "a feel" under the table. However, it is worthy of note that Holden, perhaps because of all his criticism, is the only one alone.

Further evidence for society's call to phoniness is found in Holden's remark that "I'm always saying 'Glad to've met you' to somebody I'm not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to stay that stuff, though." If you want to stay alive. Here, he implies that society forcers a person to be false as a means towards survival.

The following discussion of yellowness, wherein Holden asserts "What you should be is not yellow at all. If you're supposed to sock somebody in the jaw, and you sort of feel like doing it, you should do it," is a criticism of his own phoniness. However, when Holden attempts to remain true to himself by standing up to Maurice and Sunny, he is beaten down. It is not too far of a stretch for Maurice and Sunny to be viewed as symbols of that society which restricts the individual.

Another theme, that of society serving to estrange individuals from each other is brought into play by the episode with Sunny, who would rather fuck than talk to him. Like the rest of the people Holden interacts with, she doesn't understand what it means simply to talk.

For the second time in the book, Holden mentions religion. Holden is atheist not because of any inability to believe, but because he can't stand the institution of the church in its vindictive righteousness and the phony holiness of the preachers. There is no room left for questioning, which Holden wants to do. Religion is meant to exemplify the uncompromising nature of the social institution.

Finally, at the end of the chapter Holden fantasizes about revenge against Maurice, but doesn't actually do anything. "The goddam movies. They can ruin you," he says as an excuse. Again, he blames society. However, the reader can't help but feel that there is some truth in this remark-that the movies somehow have the effect of pacifying individuals.