In the novel Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield displays characteristics of the cynic's mentality. Holden hates everything about the world, he finds it "phony" (Salinger). That mentality in itself may very well be a defense mechanism that Holden displays when he is uncomfortable or put into a certain position, perhaps when he is nervous. Cynicism is a view on life that people develop through life experiences. Where, when, and how Holden developed a cynical personality and why he uses it tell a lot about the character Holden in depth.
Webster's Dictionary defines the word cynic as follows: "a faultfinding captious critic; especially one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest" (cynic). That definition does nothing other than making cynics sound pernicious it doesn't show the big picture. There's no mention of lost values, sorrowful humor, and not even the slightest hint to "the wounded childlike soul that lurks behind a cynic's sarcasm" (i-cynic).
Perhaps there is more to cynics other than hating everything that occupies space.
Cynics are idealists under a misshapen and contorted exterior. In the words of a cynic the correct and absolute definition for a true cynic is as follows: "an idealist whose rose-colored glasses have been removed, snapped in two and stomped into the ground, immediately improving his vision" (i-cynic). But there must be a reason for Holden to be a cynic; people are not just born cynical. Something in Holden's past directly affected his view on life.
Holden never really was the same after his little brother Allie died. He never got over his brother's death as he constantly referred to him throughout the novel.
"The thing was, I couldn't think of a room or a house or anything to describe the way Stradlater said he had...