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The number of readers who have been able to identify with Holden and make him their hero is truly staggering Something about his discontent and his vivid way of expressing it makes him resonate powerfully with readers who come from backgrounds completely different from his It is tempting to inhabit his point of view and revel in his cantankerousness rather than try to deduce what is wrong with him The obvious signs that Holden is a troubled and unreliable narrator are manifold he fails out of four schools he manifests complete apathy toward his future he is hospitalized and visited by a psychoanalyst for an unspecified complaint and he is unable to connect with other people We know of two traumas in his past that clearly have something to do with his emotional state the death of his brother Allie and the suicide of one of his schoolmates But even with that knowledge Holdens peculiarities cannot simply be explained away as symptoms of a readily identifiable disorder The most noticeable of Holdens peculiarities is how extremely judgmental he is of almost everything and everybody He criticizes and philosophizes about people who are boring people who are insecure and above all people who are phony Holden carries this penchant for passing judgment to such an extreme that it often becomes extremely funny such as when he speculates that people are so crass that someone will probably write fuck you on his tombstone Holden applies the term phony not to people who are insincere but to those who are too conventional or too typical--for instance teachers who act like teachers by assuming a different demeanor in class than they do in conversation or people who dress and act like the other members of their social class While Holden uses the label phony to imply that such people are superficial his use of the term actually indicates that his own perceptions of other people are superficial In
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