1,503 of 1,648 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2000
In J.D. Salinger's brilliant coming-of-age novel, Holden Caulfield, a seventeen year old prep school adolescent relates his lonely, life-changing twenty-four hour stay in New York City as he experiences the phoniness of the adult world while attempting to deal with the death of his younger brother, an overwhelming compulsion to lie and troubling sexual experiences.
Salinger, whose characters are among the best and most developed in all of literature has captured the eternal angst of growing into adulthood in the person of Holden Caulfield. Anyone who has reached the age of sixteen will be able to identify with this unique and yet universal character, for Holden contains bits and pieces of all of us. It is for this very reason that The Catcher in the Rye has become one of the most beloved and enduring works in world literature.
As always, Salinger's writing is so brilliant, his characters so real, that he need not employ artifice of any kind. This is a study of the complex problems haunting all adolescents as they mature into adulthood and Salinger wisely chooses to keep his narrative and prose straightforward and simple.
This is not to say that The Catcher in the Rye is a straightforward and simple book. It is anything but. In it we are privy to Salinger's genius and originality in portraying universal problems in a unique manner. The Catcher in the Rye is a book that can be loved and understood on many different levels of comprehension and each reader who experiences it will come away with a fresh view of the world in which they live.
A work of true genius, images of a catcher in the rye are abundantly apparent throughout this book.
While analyzing the city raging about him, Holden's attention is captured by a child walking in the street "singing and humming." Realizing that the child is singing the familiar refrain, "If a body meet a body, comin' through the rye," Holden, himself, says that he feels "not so depressed."
The title's words, however, are more than just a pretty ditty that Holden happens to like. In the stroke of pure genius that is Salinger, himself, he wisely sums up the book's theme in its title.
When Holden, whose past has been traumatic, to say the least, is questioned by his younger sister, Phoebe, regarding what he would like to do when he gets older, Holden replies, "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around--nobody big, I mean--except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff--I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going. I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be."
In this short bit of dialogue Salinger brilliantly exposes Holden's deepest desire and expounds the book's theme. Holden wishes to preserve something of childhood innocence that gets hopelessly lost as we grow into the crazy and phony world of adulthood.
The theme of lost innocence is deftly explored by Salinger throughout the book. Holden is appalled when he encounters profanity scrawled on the walls of Phoebe's school, a school that he envisions protecting and shielding children from the evils of society.
When Holden gives his red hunting cap to Phoebe to wear, he gives it to her as a shield, an emblem of the eternal love and protectiveness he feels for her.
Near the beginning of the book, Holden remembers a girl he once knew, Jane Gallagher, with whom he played checkers. Jane, he remembers, "wouldn't move any of her kings," and action Holden realizes to be a metaphor of her naivete. When Holden hears that his sexually experienced prep school roommate had a date with Jane, he immediately starts a fight with him, symbolically protecting Jane's innocence.
More sophisticated readers might question the reasons behind Holden's plight. While Holden's feelings are universal, this character does seem to be a rather extreme example. The catalyst for Holden's desires is no doubt the death of his younger brother, Allie, a bright and loving boy who died of leukemia at the age of thirteen. Holden still feels the sting of Allie's death acutely, as well as his own, albeit undeserved, guilt, in being able to do nothing to prevent Allie's suffering.
The only reminder Holden has of Allie's shining but all-too-short life, is Allie's baseball mitt which is covered with poems Allie read while standing in the outfield. In a particularly poignant moment, Holden tells us that this is the glove he would want to use to catch children when they fall from the cliff of innocence.
In an interesting, but trademark, Salinger twist, Holden distorts the Robert Burns poem that provides the book's title. Originally, it read, "If a body meet a body, comin' through the rye." Holden distorts the word "meet" into "catch." This is certainly not the first time Holden is guilty of distortion; indeed he is a master at it.
This distortion, however, shows us how much Allie's death has affected Holden and also how much he fears his own fall from innocence, the theme that threads its way throughout the whole of the book.
By this amazing book's end, we must reach the conclusion that there are times when we all need a "catcher in the rye." We are, indeed, blessed if we have one.
163 of 177 people found the following review helpful
Time has not damaged this tome; it remains a sometimes harrowing, sometimes absorbing, sometimes frustrating, sometimes moving look into a mind in a state of disarray.
Others have written more "shocking" books or have been more overtly anti-social, but with The Catcher In The Rye, J.D. Salinger captures the bitterly confused mind of a youth who hates the whole world not because the world is worth hating, but because he's frustrated at his own inability to get along in that world, with such crisp reality that it shocks far more than any fantastical American Psycho.
Reading over the negative reviews on Amazon, I can't help but wonder how and why so many people are so unable to get it. The Catcher In The Rye is among the, if not the, most tangibly realistic looks into the mind of a disaffected, disillusioned youth suffering from depression (and a touch of the bipolar). The way Holden Caulfield's mind works is incredibly true to form - the contradictions, the hypocrisy, the confusion, the brief moments of sheer clarity followed by stretches of irrational thought. He thinks he's better than the world, and he thinks he's the lousiest person in the world at the same time. He wants everyone to go away and leave him alone, and he can't bear anyone, not even some schmuck he really dislikes (with good reason), to leave him. He's nothing but hypocrisy and contradictions and confusion. Salinger captures this in an amazing way.
People criticize the book because Caulfield is totally unlikable, a guy who rails against phonies when he himself is something of a phony ... but that's part of the point. Holden throws off all the signals someone in his situation actually throws off in real life, and just like real life, they're almost always ignored. Clearly this was a very, very autobiographical work for Salinger.
There are several moments when Caulfield, narrating in the first person, mentions offhandedly that he began to cry, he didn't know why, he felt like dying, and suddenly it went away and he felt invigorated with energy. It rings remarkably true. Who wrote this stuff with such honesty in 1951? Who tackled these issues, and in such a manner, in the 1950s?
The reason this has impact, though, is not simply because of the subject matter, not because of what Holden Caulfield is going through, and not because of the context of its time, but because Salinger never plays it for melodrama. He doesn't talk it up with purple prose or romanticize Caulfield's mentality or beat you over the head with ham-handed messages and platitudes. He neither makes Holden's mentality seem "cool" nor does he preach against Holden's attitude; he just says, "This is what it is." By presenting it in such a matter-of-fact manner, all in the first person, as if the narrator is simply telling you a story while having a few drinks, the whole thing is rooted in a very tangible, and therefore very disturbing, reality.
You and I KNOW Holden Caulfield. We've known that guy. And in The Catcher In The Rye, you get to peer inside his mind.
Even with dated references and slang and phrasings, I don't know that J.D. Salinger's The Catcher In The Rye will ever cease to be relevant and important.
232 of 265 people found the following review helpful
on July 5, 2001
It is difficult to remember what it was like to read this book for the first time. It is also difficult to imagine a book where each new reading provides so much more illumination into the main character and his personality. I can remember finding Catcher to be funny the first time I read it. I now alternately find Holden to be walking a fine line between witty sarcasm and dangerous cynicism. He is funny, there is no way around that, but his belittling nature also causes him to dismiss much from his life that may not be perfect, but should be included. There is nothing that he, in the end, does not dismiss as being phony, whether it is the nuns with whom he shares a cup of coffee, the teacher at the end who most likely was just trying to help, the Egyptian wing of the museum, Pheobe's school...everything. As soon as one little detail slips in which is not completely on track with what he is thinking whatever it is he is contemplating becomes useless, phony, not worth dealing with. His humor is sharp and witty and I often laugh out loud while reading, but it is also an easy way for him to detach himself from a world which he no longer feels he belongs in, or wants to belong in. I can remember finding the ending ambiguous the first time I read it. I now see it as the only way it could end, with Holden finding happiness watching his sister Pheobe going forever in circles, and being able to pretend that that is never going to change. She is the one thing in his life which he still deems worthy of existence, and placing her on a merry-go-round is his best attempt to keep her there. Things change and grow and move on, but Holden refuses to accept this and is yearning to stop things forever where they are, to go back to when D.B. was a writer full of dreams and Allie was still alive. He mentions once how he used to take field trips to the museum, but how it was never the same and that takes something away from it. Even if the exhibit was the same, YOU would be different, simply by having traveled a bit farther in life, and this is what Holden is incapable of dealing with. The ending is Holden trying to keep the one thing in his life he still truly loves exactly the way she is. I can remember finding Holden's journey to be a bit all over the place. I now can see that there is not a single detail which Salinger does not use to illuminate Holden. On Holden's last night at school everything is covered with snow. He stands there holding a snowball looking for something to throw it at, but he can not bring himself to throw his snowball and disturb a fire hydrant or a park bench. Everything is peaceful under the snow and Holden can not bring himself to alter this just as he can not handle a world that keeps changing. Or there is Holden's history class, which he is failing. The only topic he is remotely interested in is the Egyptians and their process of mummification. The only thing he cares about is how to preserve things just as they are. I can remember enjoying this book the first time I read it. But I had no idea that with each subsequent reading I would find more and more to enjoy, and more and more evidence of Salinger's genius.
82 of 95 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2000
Have you ever gotten fed up with the world? Have you ever just had enough of everybody's stupid, phony attitudes and this tainted game that we call life? You feel like you're all alone, there's no one that will listen to you, and the ones that do turn out to be perverts and phonies. Are they all crazy, or is it me?
This is the attitude that Holden Caulfield, a disgruntled 16 year-old, takes toward life. He's just flunked out of another school, his younger brother Allie is dead, he's a virgin, and to top it all off, everyone around him is a phony. Holden is alone in this superficial, corrupt world he lives in.
What amazes me most about A Catcher in the Rye is it's incredibly controversial beginnings when it was first published. The book took place and was published in the 1940's, and society was based on being right and proper. Things like hollow conversation just for the sake of conversing defined what Holden held as "phony". Holden hated phonies with a passion, and throughout the book made brutal, dead-on observations about the world which were stated in crude dialect. This caused much uprising in society, and was stereotyped as "evil" and "insignificant" by the common "phony" book reviewer of the time. Even serial killers were found with the book on them. Mark Chapman, the man who murdered John Lennon, was found with the book in his pocket after the crime. As you can imagine this didn't help the situation at all.
In the real world, evil was personified as Holden Caulfield. People reacted to the book just as people reacted to Holden in the novel. Holden was considered a rebellious, ungrateful, disrespectful teenager that, although rare, is a worldwide epidemic. But if you see past the narrow-minded view that people tend to look through, the book is a testament that this rebellious teenager is a person. The book shows that Holden, although a sarcastic, nasty, unlikable guy, is a person inside who is just trying to save the virtue of innocence.
Holden sees the world as perverted and narrow, and has a nervous breakdown when he sees innocent children about to fall of the cliff. This cliff is a thought of Holden's of which he states when asked what he wants to be when he grows up. Holden says that he wants to be a catcher in the rye. He envisions children playing on a field of rye, and next to this field there's a cliff. Holden would catch the children if they didn't look where they were going and accidentally ran off the cliff. There is incredible symbolism in this statement. The children represent childhood innocence and purity. The cliff, or what lies below it, represents the tainted, impure "game" of life, in which so many people have fallen. These people, the phonies, are what Holden despises most. Holden demonstrates his desire to save innocence when he finds that someone's written "f*** you" on a schoolhouse wall. "I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them- all cockeyed, naturally- what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days." Holden rubbed the mark off, and felt extreme hatred toward the person who wrote it.
Holden hated everything. Everything he held sacred turned out to be a disappointment. A girl in which he thought was innocent and pure turned out to be "given the time" by a suave roommate of his. Another girl whom he dated was such a phony it almost made him vomit. He gets roughed up when a disgruntled pimp comes around to collect more than Holden owed for a prostitute whom he didn't even have sex with. An old teacher that finally understood where Holden was coming from turns out to be a pervert when he's found patting Holden's head in the middle of the night. Nothing sacred and nothing pure, and the worse part was that Holden was, self-admittedly, too "yellow-belly" to do anything about these things. A boy lost in a sick world, helpless to its evil, and yet Holden's the crazy one? Holden speaks the brutal truth, and admires others who do. For example, Holden said that he really admired this kid, James, that Holden knew, who said that another kid, Phil, was a conceited jerk. Phil was much bigger, and he and six other jerks went into scrawny James' room and beat him up, wanting him to take back his comments. James never took it back, but instead, decided to jump out a window to his death.
A key factor that made this book enjoyable was the style in which its monologue was written. This book is definitely not an English teacher's dream when it comes to grammar, sentence structure, etc. But the dialect, risqué even by today's standards, conveys a feeling of reality that is not obtainable by any other literary device I know of. Holden's sarcasm, humorous attitude, and flat out bluntness had me laughing page after page. This line, chosen at random, demonstrates Holden's attitude and dialect, "You should've seen the way they said hello. You'd have thought they hadn't seen each other in twenty years. You'd have thought they'd taken baths in the same bathtub or something when they were little kids. Old buddyroos. It was nauseating. The funny part was, they probably met each other just once, at some phony party. Finally, when they were all done slobbering around, old Sally introduced me."
So why is A Catcher in the Rye a great book? I think what makes a great book great is its ability to communicate with the reader. Every teenager I know can easily relate to Holden Caulfield's situation. The book is a comfort if you're a teen feeling the same things as Holden, criticizing the world and its occupants. Holden Caulfield is a hero that wasn't afraid to speak his mind. He taught me that your criticisms of the world are not invalid, and that there is nothing that you can say that is so bad that you have to repress it. Holden made me feel a little less alone. He made me feel like there were others in this predicament that we call adolescence.
142 of 172 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2000
I read Catcher in the Rye while on break from school. I'd heard many allusions to the book, and many people said they liked it, yet I didn't really know what it was about. It is fascinating, a true inspiration. Holden is so complex that you can't stop thinking about him when you're not reading. Salinger's amazing insights into human nature and his clever style of cynicism is unique to much of literature and better than all contemporary literature. As Holden starts to spiral down, you can't help but feel incredibly sad thinking about his situation. A boy, on the brink of breakdown, speaking of things that make so much sense. It makes you wonder if he's the one going crazy or if it's the way society is that is truly crazy. I will always love this book and I plan on going over it again to underline all the lines that I adored. For the people giving bad reviews, and as I've analyzed their comments, I must say that you missed the boat. I'm sure that you are the people that Holden is making his social critiques on. No symbolism, a boring character that is whining? Come again? Salinger's phrasing of his words is simplistic, but his message is not. Read it again, try and be more perceptive, and think harder about what is really being said. There is enlightenment waiting for you.
31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2001
Holden Caulfield, a teenager growing up in New York during the 1950s, has been expelled from yet another school. (This time, it's Pencey Prep.) His teachers had found him to be incompetent and an underachiever. After coming to the conclusion the so-called "friends" he had made were phonies, Holden decides he has no reason to stay. He packs his bags and leaves, deciding to "take a vacation" in New York before returning to his parents' inevitable wrath. Told as a monologue, The Catcher in the Rye not only describes Holden's thoughts and activities throughout these few days, but it also goes back to his past. He describes some of his true friends, how his parents and childhood were,and gives reasons for his actions. (Like deciding not to have sex with a prostitute.) These few days can probably be best described as a developing nervous breakdown, a result of his unexplained depression, impulsive spending and generally odd, erratic behavior. However, life continues on around Holden as it always has, with the majority of people ignoring the changes that occur in him- until it begins to get them seriously ticked off. Progressively through the novel we are challenged to think about society's attitude to the human condition - does society have an 'ostrich in the sand' mentality, a deliberate ignorance of the emptiness that can characterize human existence? And if so, when Caulfield begins to probe and investigate his own sense of emptiness and isolation, before finally declaring that the world is full of 'phonies' with each one out for their own phony gain, is Holden actually the one who is going insane, or is it society which has lost it's mind for failing to see the hopelessness of its own existence? This is a timeless classic, not to be missed.
339 of 418 people found the following review helpful
on May 5, 2000
I've read The Catcher in the Rye many times--when I was 11, 13, 15, and 17 years old. Seriously. I loved it from the first time I read it, but it didn't hit home until I was a junior and senior in high school.
I AM HOLDEN CAULFIELD. Well, not literally and exactly. But almost. Holden is an extraordinary character. His absolute terror of leaving the wonderful, innocent, carefree world of youth is something everyone can relate to. I'm about to graduate from high school, and even though I'm excited to be a free, independent adult, I can't help but be terrified of the corruption and hard reality that lays ahead, which I have been blind to, as a young person. I mean--who wouldn't miss being a kid?--living at home for free, not having to do anything or be responsible for yourself or anyone. Holden embodies this. To me, that's what I related to most from the book.
Most kids I know don't like the book cuz they're forced to read it for class, which is understandable. I wish they could see the beauty, and heartbreaking universality of Holden's story, though. It is something J.D. Salinger had the talent to grasp, and share it with the rest of the world.
And it's so freakin' inspirational I have to go on Amazon.com and tell some people!
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
Even though this is a literary classic that almost everyone in America reads before graduating from High School, somehow I missed out on this one and was never required to read it for any class I took, even through college. I've heard numerous references to it through the years. Before killing John Lennon, Mark Chapman, who read and re-read the book many times - to the point of believing it was his own biography, asked Lennon to autograph his copy before gunning down the musician. John Hinckley, attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan, was another devotee of the short novel, as was Robert Bardo, killer of Rebecca Schaeffer (star of "My Sister Sam" on TV). There may be countless other criminals and stalkers who have identified with the book's main character, Holden Caulfield. In Mel Gibson's movie, "Conspiracy Theory," his character has an obsession with the book and must buy a copy every time he sees one.
I finally had to pick up a copy and find out what all the fuss was about. Was the book about stalking and murder? Not exactly - but rather the motivating factor behind such heinous crimes of obsession.
Caulfield, in his late teens, is a misfit in a world that doesn't tolerate misfits very well. His younger brother, who he dearly admired for being so likeable and genuine, has died of cancer. His older brother, D.B., lives in Hollywood, writing stories for the big screen, which is a loathsome thought for Caulfield.
Caulfield is an introspective youth who hates being around fake people (who doesn't?), but doesn't try to get to know people well enough to find out whether they are really phony or not. He stumbles through life with his arms crossed in defiance, believing he's one of the few genuine people in the world.
Growing up in an affluent home, being shuttled from one prep school to another, Caulfield finds himself ensconced with phonies and it makes him sick to his stomach. His refusal to acclimate results in him being kicked out of one school after another. The novel opens with his narrative of how he has been kicked out of Pencey, his latest prep school, and how he doesn't want to face his parents until they've gotten the news and calmed down a bit.
He heads up to New York, getting a room in a fleabag hotel, then running from bar to bar, trying to find something that won't bore him. He's obsessed with avoiding boredom at all costs. He's constantly finding himself in situations where he fantasizes about killing people, but never defends himself because, he explains, he's "yellow."
His inability to focus and attempt to express himself makes him frustrated and angry, finding contempt and hate for just about anyone for any reason, even those he loves. The story takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride of 2 and a half days as Holden Caulfield searches for meaning in his life, but finds only emptiness. The only thing he can seem to hold onto is the fantasy of building a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, where he never has to be around phonies again... he'd rather be alone, than lonely in the midst of crowds of phony-baloneys.
After reading the book, it's easy to understand how such misfits as Hinckley, Bardo and Chapman used this book as their personal anthem and almost as a proxy, felt the need to act out in ways that Holden Caulfield was unable or unwilling to do. To the sane reader, Caulfield's character is a study in sadness and loneliness, not a character worth admiring - albeit his search for the truth in life is a noble cause.
The book doesn't condone or condemn Caulfield, but rather states Caulfield's thoughts as they come to him. The sane reader can't help but want to reassure Caulfield that this is part of growing up and everything is going to be ok, and wonder where such people were in the lives of the famous stalkers who never had anyone reach out to them and slap them with some reality.
As someone with ADHD, I found the book a fairly easy read. Parents should know that the book is wrought with foul language and sexually suggestive narratives. As a minor, Caulfield smokes, drinks and attempts to procure the services of a prostitute, among other things... so this is not light reading nor should this be the reading material of a young person not mature enough to separate fact from fiction. Salinger's writing style is interesting - detailed, yet quickly paced, and a good piece of literature as reference for the aspiring writer.
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2002
The catcher in the rye is a rather short yet excellent book. I thoroughly enjoyed the book while reading it. The story basically tells of a rebellious high school student named Holden Caulfield. He gets kicked out of school because of his horrible grades, but he hangs around New York instead of going home so that his mother can get the letter first and calm down before he gets home. He does a few crazy things while staying in New York, but he gets bored and finally decides to go home. The story itself is just talking about a high schoolers time in New York City, but the excellent part about the book is the way it is told.
Holden Caulfield is not your typical rebellious teenage high schooler; he is much more than that. The crazy things that he does are so weird that even rebellious teenagers nowadays don't even do them. The funny thing is that whatever crazy thing he does, it sounds normal to the reader. He tells it in a way that makes you agree with what he did. Everybody around him he considers a phony and then he describes why they are stupid. People don't understand him even though he actually is a very bright person, he just doesn't show it. Many things he says are actually worth considering in our world today.
The book is very funny and I finished it in just a couple of sittings, but if you are looking for an action packed book, this isn't one for you. Humor is a big key in this book and if you get the humor, you'll enjoy the book. This book is for people who think nobody understands them and that they are all alone in this world, because actually, as Holden learned, there are many people in this world that will actually listen to you if you give them the chance.
136 of 167 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2006
I know this book is "it", and there is a lot of blather from ecstatic readers about universal coming of age and a rueful sadness at loss of innocence. Okay, fine. It's in there. I laughed a couple or three times, and I even recall a good belly laugh. Good. And obviously there is Salinger's gift for spoken language and keen insightfulness regarding social peccadilloes and irritating manners. Most folks can identify with Holden's exasperation and frustration toward those who adapt to and adopt those "socializing" manners and peccadilloes as they transition to adulthood. Holden seeks to resist that polluting influence, which is admirable, right?
Only, there's a problem. In spite of his recognition of the problem(s) in others, he is part of the problem himself. He candidly admits that he has a variety of personality quirks and negative behavioral characteristics. But he also has irksome and annoying behaviors that he doesn't recognize, and so his conduct contributes to the same noisome and spoilsome social corruption that he laments in others.
This book has a tremendous fan base. It is beloved as a cultural and literary artifact. It is also praised for its dialog and characterization, and rightly so. The story is skillfully presented, no doubt. Superlatives are tossed about (notice the terms "genius", "master", and "brilliant" in the gushing spotlight review dated July 21,2000) when this novel is discussed. I understand why this is so, but I find myself tending to agree in sentiment with the tone of the one-star review below by Michael Atkins. This book is over-hyped. While Caulfield's character may ring true in both voice and observation, the result is a confection that is light in substance. Holden is a study in sweet angst, yes. So?
The theme of the book isn't related to the word picture captured in the title, contrary to the regurgitated observations made below. The theme is that humans are broken, and while they may be able to see what is wrong, they aren't much capable to do anything about it. Even if they can act to resolve a problem here or there, they are instigating and engendering their own set of problems elsewhere.
The musician Sting authored the popular song "Every Breath You Take" while a member of the band the Police. He has voiced his consternation at the way the public responded to his song, which was #1 on the music charts for some time. Sting points out that the song is not about sweet, devoted love at all, but is rather about an obsessed and ugly jealousy that is controlling and disturbed. The public was happily and haplessly ignorant of this, naively not picking up the clues in the song or the video, even though the high-key, low-fill lighting used in the video gives a classic noire, deep-shadow depiction of a character with a dark side. Sting has often confessed his exasperation with the public's inability to recognize the song for what it is, and he finds the song's great popularity as a wedding song shocking and shallow.
The same is true of The Catcher in the Rye. As the other spotlight review by Jack from Des Moines illustrates, readers typically tend to identify with Holden Caulfield. Jack's statement is sterling: I AM HOLDEN CAULFIELD. "The number of readers who have been able to identify with Holden and make him their hero is truly staggering," claims the SparkNotes.com website. The ironic fact is that Holden Caulfield is one of the most pathetic and self-deluded characters in English-language fiction. He is, in his own wrecked way, as much a phony as any of the other characters upon whom he appends that label. Holden is everything he despises, despite his limited recognition of his own failings. For any reader to make the choice to happily identify with Holden Caulfield is to embrace in oneself the personification of foolishness. It is nothing less than gleefully claiming to be a phony. Look again at that SparkNotes quote above, then go figure.
My two-star rating is probably more a function of my reaction to the story's popularity, a la Sting, than my reaction to the humor and craft of the story itself. I would probably give the story three or four stars (3½ maybe?) based on those qualities. I would be willing to give the story five stars for it's superlative depiction of the inability of humans to recognize their own shortcomings while they so easily dwell on the failures of others, except for one thing: the evidence suggests that Salinger failed in making his point. In a tremendous irony, one perhaps not unexpected, readers on the whole appear to be incapable of recognizing the true theme and purpose of the story. It seems that hardly anyone learns from the novel, they just LIKE it. Reviewer Damon Garr, in his 5-star review below, even mourns that he wasn't quite as cynical when he was a teen as Caulfield manages to be in the story. How utterly bizarre!
Yes, people are Holden Caulfield...and what a sad, pathetic, shameful, and repulsive situation that is. Salinger proved a truth rather than exposed it--that is a failing--and the book loses any luster it might have been able to sustain because of that monumental shortcoming.