It is possible that Holden is simply trying to recapture his original emotions and thoughts in his narration, and thus masking the fact that he has a more enlightened view regarding his behavior than he had during his escapades. But nothing he says seems to point to such irony on Holden’s part. Although Holden narrates his story after it has already happened, he seems to have gained little perspective. He alludes to his present situation only twice once at the beginning and once at the end of the novel and he refuses to tell us much about it. Additionally, many of the personal characteristics that have been damaging to him for example, his cynicism and his lack of introspection are in fact more pervasive in his narration of his story than in the story itself. As a result, the story he tells is only partial; he often glides over moments of particular trauma or treats painful moments by pretending not to care.
Because Holden is an unreliable narrator, in order to understand his character it is necessary to look beyond his words at his behavior and his interactions with others, using the knowledge of his personality acquired from his narration and applying it to his actions in the story. For instance, when Holden tells about being beaten and robbed by Maurice, the elevator operator, he admits that he thought he was dying and fantasizes about being a movie hero and seeking his revenge. But he never describes how any of this makes him feel; his sole comment is that the “goddam movies” can ruin a person. Since we have learned from previous moments in the book that Holden is a deeply sensitive boy, we can look beneath the surface of his narrative to see the suffering it covers up. In this scene, we also see how self-conflicted Holden is: he claims to hate movies, but he turns to them in a moment of crisis. Because the relationship between the events that Holden narrates and his explanations of those events is so complex and contradictory, and because he is unwilling to discuss any part of his “recovery,” nothing that Holden says suggests that he has really matured from his experiences.