Holden Caulfield’s problem is that he cannot find anyone that he can relate to in life, which makes him alone and depressed.
All of Holden’s life he criticizes and sizes people up to his standards. This leaves him alone and by himself. He never can really admit his emotions to people and seems to only relate to those elite few who he knows and trusts. Holden describes these “phony” people in his life.
Just about everyone he meets except a few seem to be phonies to him. As long as there is some fault in a person that makes them more open and exciting than Holden he insults them and puts them down in his mind:
Her name was Lillian Simmons. My brother D.B.
used to go around with her for a while… “How marvelous to see you!” old Lillian Simmons said.
Strictly a phony… Holden, you’re getting handsomer by the minute.
People who just want to be nice to Holden are criticized by him and brushed off as not being serious. Maybe he is right, but maybe he just does not want to befriend someone who will leave him. Since Holden’s brother Allie died he has had some trouble reaching out to people. He expresses this in the way that he only likes and is friends with his siblings.
Also how he still talks to his brother even though he is dead and he knows it:
Then I started doing some thing else. Every time I’d get to the end of the block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie…
And when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again…
Holden’s illusion of his brother still with him, gives him the safety and reassurance that he is not alone, but he should not be getting this from his dead brother. Holden constantly finds himself disliking everything he does or sees, the only things he enjoys are things that stay the same and do not change on him. He feels that if things stay how they were then he can still feel connected and near people (Allie):
The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move.
You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still just be finishing catching those two fish…(121)
Holden is alone in the world in his own mind, but he really is not.
He has to open to people and learn to do that in a way where he does not judge their every move. When Holden realizes that by shutting out the world he creates the “phonies” that he always meets, then he can see his problem clearly and will be able to solve it.