January 13, 2011
If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. (1)
This quote is the very first sentence in the Catcher in the Rye. It is important because it gives the reader insight into Holden’s character. He gives the impression that he is a no-nonsense kind of guy that does not care to get too personal with others, but at the same time he demonstrates a bit of a rebellious attitude.
They gave me frequent warning to start applying myself, especially around mid-terms, when my parents came up for a conference with old Thurmer- but I didn’t do it. So I got the ax. (6)
This is important because it gives background information into Holden’s current life situation, as well as revealing another characteristic of his personality. Holden does not have the motivation to do well in school, and he does not seem to care about being expelled. Being the teenager he is, he does not realize the importance of education; he does not even care about the consequences.
And yet I still act sometimes like I was only about twelve. Everybody says that, especially my father. It’s partly true, too, but it isn’t all true. People always think something’s all true. I don’t give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes, I act a lot older than I am – I really do- but people never notice it. People never notice anything. (13)
This quote is one of the first of many times where Holden says one thing and then contradicts himself. He says that he, a sixteen year old, acts as young as a twelve, and then proceeds to say that he acts older than his age. However, sometimes acting younger or older than they really are is typical teenager behavior. This quote is also important because he feels that people never notice anything. Once again this is another typical teenage belief; the belief that people don’t notice anything and it is easy to get away with things. However, this is not the case, because people do notice and as a result, those people judge the teenager.
Then we shook hands. And all that crap. It made me feel sad as hell, though. (21)
In this quote, Holden is shaking hands with one of the teachers he had before he flunked school. As he shakes his teacher’s hand, he feels guilt. This guilt, brought upon by being “a disappointment” makes him sad. It shows that Holden is not always a judgmental teenager with a bad attitude and no conscience.
“This sentence I’m reading is terrific” I can be quite sarcastic when I’m in the mood (28)
Holden, like many other teenagers including myself, is quite fond of using sarcasm. Sarcasm is a typical teenage behavior that is funny to some, but annoying to others. It is also a way some teenagers obtain space. In this case, Holden uses sarcasm to say that he does not want to be bothered.
Then I started horsing around a little bit. Sometimes I horse around quite a lot, just to keep from getting bored. (29)
This is one sign of Holden’s immaturity. In his boredom, he goofs around with himself to keep from boredom. Normally, this would not be a big deal. However, when Holden starts to horse around, he puts an effort into annoying those around him. This is similar to the behavior of a bored seven year old child.
“Jane Gallagher,” I said. I couldn’t get over it. “Jesus H. Christ.” (41)
Jane Gallagher is a very important person in Holden’s life. As soon as he hears her name mentioned, his first reaction is shock. She was essentially his childhood friend. Holden then goes on into little details and quirks about her, like how she always kept her kings in the back row during checkers, showing that she meant a lot to him at the very least.
“Hey,” I said. “Don’t tell her I got kicked out, willya?” (43)
I feel that this quote is important because it demonstrates Holden’s sensitive side. This quote displays Holden’s shame for being kicked out of school. This quote is also important because Holden asks that Jane is not notified of his recent failure. By asking this, he shows that he cares what Jane thinks, and her impression of him is very important. It foreshadows how meaningful Holden’s relationship with Jane is to him.
He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You’d have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. (49)
This quote is important because it informs the reader that Holden had a younger brother named Allie, but unfortunately Allie died. When Holden thinks about Allie, all he thinks about is how special of a person Allie was. Holden is quite fond of his siblings and has great relationships with them, making the death of his younger brother a huge impact on Holden’s life.
I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn’t do it. It was a stupid thing to do, I’ll admit, but I hardly didn’t even know I was doing it, and you didn’t know Allie.
Allie’s death had a significant impact on Holden. Allie was one of the most important people in his life; he was an amazing guy in Holden’s eyes and one of the people closest to him. When Holden hears of his brother’s death, he is so devastated that the devastation turns to anger and he breaks windows until his hand is a broken mess. This really shows the importance of Allie in Holden’s life.
This next part I don’t remember so hot. All I know is I got up from the bed, like I was going to the can or something, and then I tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his goddam throat open. (56)
Every teenager has times where someone says or does something and it sets them off, causing them to go into a furious rage. Holden is upset about Stradlater and Jane, and his anger gets the best of him. Those urges to hurt the ones who hurt him get the best of Holden, and he lets his anger guide those urges into violent actions. Teenagers go though these situations all the time; the only difference is that many learn to resist the violent and angry urges.
I didn’t even bother to get up. I just lay there on the floor for a while, and kept calling him a moron sunuvabitch. I was so mad, I was practically bawling. “Listen. Go wash your face,” Stradlater said. “Ya hear me?” I told him to go wash his own moron face- which was a pretty childish thing to say, but I was mad as hell. (58)
After a devastating fight or confrontation, sometimes teenagers involved are so sad, so hurt, and so angry that once the climatic part of the conflict is over, they become a bundle of messy emotions. In this instance, Holden is so sad and hurt; he just lies on the floor after being restrained, practically in tears. He is so hurt and angry that he is making every attempt to infuriate Stradlater, no matter how childish or silly the insult is. He just wants Stradlater to be hurt, like him. This action is childish, but common among teenagers. I know I have felt like this before, and how hard it is to describe those feelings.
I didn’t answer him. All I did was, I got up and went over and looked out the window. I felt so lonesome, all the sudden. I almost wished I was dead. (62)
This is important because Holden tells what his true emotions are. He is suffering from depression, which may explain his outlook on life and his behavior with people. Depression makes people feel alone and sometimes that it is not worth living on. In this case, Holden feels the loneliness that depression commonly brings and his thoughts turn to ending the pain through death.
When I was all set to go, when I had my bags and all, I stood for a while next to the stairs and took a last look down the goddam corridor. I was sort of crying. I don’t know why. (68)
Depression is common, and many teenagers, including me, can really relate to those sad thoughts and feelings. What is important, though, is how depression is handled. Holden feels that running away is the best option for him. Because of his depression, he doesn’t realize that running away does not fix the problems. But he does feel sad that he is doing it, even though he does not realize it.
But I’ll bet, after all the crap I shot, Mrs. Morrow’ll keep thinking of him now as this very shy, modest, guy that wouldn’t let us nominate him for president. She might. You can’t tell. Mothers aren’t too sharp about that stuff. (74)
This quote is important because it shows what Holden thinks of mothers. He thinks that he can lie his butt off to a mother about her son, and that she will believe him. His opinion of mothers is that they are essentially stupid, and that they don’t know anything. However, this is not true. Many mothers do know their child, and they are not as stupid as Holden believes. I know for a that many times when I believe I have tricked my mother, it turns out that she knew what was happening and had her suspicions. It is important to know Holden’s opinion of mothers because it helps explain why he does not wish to return after flunking out of school.
I was right away sorry I’d said it, but it was too late. (75)
Many people, kids, teenagers, and even adults, all have had moments where they said something and regretted ever uttering it out loud. In this quote, Holden has just had one of those relatable moments. The guilt from saying something harsh immediately affects him, but unfortunately it is too late to retract what was said.
I hate saying corny things like “traveling incognito.” But when I’m with somebody that’s corny, I always act corny too. (79)
This is important for two reasons. The first reason is because Holden is doing exactly what he always complains about. He is being a “phony.” He always calls people phonies when they don’t be themselves so they come off a certain way around other people, yet here he is doing the exact same thing. The second reason is because Holden is exhibiting a typical behavior almost everyone does. He is acting differently because he is with different person, and different situations require different approaches.
I was going to tell whoever answered the phone that I was her uncle. I was going to say her aunt had just got killed in a car accident and I had to speak to her immediately. It would’ve worked, too. (82)
Often times, a teenager wants something so bad, they come up with crazy and somewhat stupid ideas and plans to help them obtain that something. In this instance, Holden is so passionate about his desire to speak to Jane that he is coming up with crazy ideas just to have a word with her. But like the teenager with the crazy idea, he has not completely thought through his crazy idea. He doesn’t realize that his idea would not only have failed, but that it would ruin his relationship with Jane permanently.
You should see her. You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life. She’s really smart. (88)
When Holden talks about Phoebe, all he can say are compliments to how amazing she is. Holden and Phoebe share a special relationship that only a brother and sister can have. Phoebe is one of the most important people to Holden, and it Holden never misses a chance to tell the reader how great she is.
She started jitterbugging with me- but just very nice and easy, not corny. (95)
Holden exhibits yet another unexpected trait of his; he loves to dance. With Holden’s personality and the way he has treated others, it comes as a complete shock to me that Holden would have the time and motivation to be a good dancer.
I know old Jane like a book- I still couldn’t get her off my brain. I knew her like a book. I really did. (99)
Once again, Holden has his mind set on Jane. His constant thoughts about her show how important she is to him and that Holden desires to be more than just her friend. Another important part of this quote is the fact that Holden cannot get Jane off his brain. When someone feels really strongly for someone, all they can think about is that person. There are times that I can really relate to Holden in this situation.
You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were. (103)
Holden is so enamored by Jane that just being with her is enough to make her heart soar. Some of the happiest moments Holden ever talks about are ones with Jane. She is different than all the other girls; Holden feels that she is absolutely amazing in every way. Her looks don’t matter to Holden, and whether she is a “phony” couldn’t bother him one bit. He loves everything about her.
I swear to God, if I were a piano player or an actor or something and all those dopes thought I was terrific, I’d hate it. I wouldn’t even want them to clap for me. People always clap for the wrong things. If I were a piano player I’d play it in the goddam closet. (110)
Holden claims that if he was getting attention for a talent of his, he would absolutely despise it. However, I feel that this is not true. I believe that Holden is actually jealous that he doesn’t have a talent that gets him a lot of attention. He really would like to have that attention, but since he is not getting it, he bashes the thought to convince himself he wouldn’t want it.
Which always kills me. I’m always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though. (114)
Holden despises certain behaviors that society deems polite. However, Holden brings up a good point; there are certain actions and behaviors that one must do in order to survive in that society. Nobody desires to be an outcast, including Holden, and therefore in order to “stay alive” in that community, he has to follow certain behaviors.
It was against my principles and all, but I was feeling so depressed I didn’t even think. That’s the whole trouble. When you’re feeling very depressed, you can’t even think. (119)
Holden brings up a valid point in this quite; when someone is depressed, they don’t think. Depresssion makes it harder to be logical about decisions and to make good choices. Depression, especially in teenagers, causes people not to think about the consequences of their actions, and that makes depression something that people need to deal with, and get help with if needed.
I know you’re supposed to feel pretty sexy when somebody gets up and pulls their dress over their head, but I didn’t. Sexy was about the last thing I was feeling. I felt much more depressed than sexy. (123)
Here is a girl, getting naked for Holden, but all he can think about is all depressed he is. Life has thrown Holden around so much that he is breaking down. When this girl comes into his room to have sex, he simply just asks to talk. Holden is so down that he is looking for someone to open up to,
What I did, I started talking, sort of out loud, to Allie. (129)
Holden is extremely depressed and needs someone to turn to. As a result, he turns to one of the few closest people to him, Allie. Even though Allie is dead, Holden’s relationship was so strong that even now Holden feels Allie helping him. The bond between siblings is a special one that even death cannot break.
What I really feel like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window. (136)
Holden’s depression has reached a critical state, where he begins to have suicidal thoughts. As a teenager with depression problems myself, I know that this is the time outside help needs to step in and talk to him. I can fully relate to Holden; I know what it’s like to feel that everything your life is falling apart. It doesn’t feel good at all.
She hasn’t felt too healthy since my brother Allie died. She’s very nervous. That’s another reason why I hated like hell for her to know I got the ax again. (140)
Holden is not the only one affected by Allie’s death; his mother has had health problems ever since then. She is also very nervous, probably because she is afraid to lose another child. But no matter what her reason, Holden is concerned about her, and he feels disappointed and guilty that his problems will affect her. That is the real reason he doesn’t want his parents to find out about him getting kicked out of school again.
They let me give them ten bucks as a contribution. They kept asking me if I was sure I could afford it and all. I told them I had quite a bit of money with me, but they didn’t seem to believe me. They took it, though, finally. The both of them kept thanking me so much it was embarrassing. (143)
This quote demonstrates another side of Holden that we have not yet seen. Holden does a good deed, giving ten bucks to the nuns (which is quite a lot for the time he lived in). Holden then proceeds to be humble about his charitable donation, and even is a little embarrassed at how grateful they are. Embarrassment may be what he is feeling on the surface, but deep down, he feels good for doing a good deed.
There was this record I wanted to get for Phoebe, […] because I knew it would knock old Phoebe out, […] (149)
Even now, as he is trying to figure out how to deal with depression, and his current life situation, Holden is still thinking about his young sister. He goes out of his way and buys a record for her, something he knows that she will like, just because It will mean a lot to her. He demonstrates the strength of the bond he has with his sibling as well as the kind heart he tries not show the world.
But I kept walking over to the Mall anyway, because that’s where Phoebe usually goes when she’s in the park. She likes to skate near the bandstand. It’s funny. That’s the same place I used to like to skate when I was a kid. (153)
In his depressed state, Holden is looking for comfort. He goes to the place where he has fond memories. He heads to a place in his past, possibly because he yearns to go back to a simpler time. He goes to the skate park, and fondly remembers his sister skating, as wel as him skating, and as he describes it, he seems to cheer up.
It was the phoniest conversation you ever heard in your life. They both kept thinking of places as fast as they could, then they’d think of somebody that lived there and mentioned their name. I was all set to puke […] (166)
Holden feels that this conversation between Sally and the guy she knew is a superficial conversation. However, conversations like these are common between two people who are catching up, and those two people may not feel that these conversations are phony. Holden is very judgmental and as a result, he lets a simple and harmless conversation get to him. I feel this is important because it shows how easily influenced Holden is be other people.
“In the first place, we’re both practically children. And did you ever stop to think what you’d do if you didn’t get a job when your money ran out? We’d starve to death. The whole thing’s so fantastic it isn’t even-““It isn’t fantastic. I’d get a job. Don’t worry about that.[…]” (172)
Holden is planning on running away, and he asks Sally to join him. However Sally brings uo a few good points. Holden is may be close to adulthood, but he is still a child, and still hasn’t completely matured. Also, what would happen if Holden couldn’t get a job? He is so sure he could, but with his personality, there is a good chance he might not. Holden hasn’t thought through all the consequences of what may happen if he does run away. It goes to show that Holden is not ready to face the world, despite what he may think.
[…] – and I thought he might want to have dinner with me somewhere and have a slightly intellectual conversation. He was very enlightening sometimes. (177)
Holden is looking for a nice conversation, an enlightening conversation, a conversation that will help him think. However, whenever Holden talks with someone, he behaves immaturely and proceeds to steer the conversation away from enlightening and towards uncomfortable, sarcastic, and immature. This shows that Holden is somewhat of a hypocrite, and still quite immature, even when claiming to want intellectual conversation.
If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will. (183)
When Holden is talking about “it” he is talking about an atomic bomb. Once again, Holden’s thoughts turn to suicide. In this case, he isn’t as serious, but still, it’s a suicidal thought. I feel that this is important because his depression is manifesting itself into regular thoughts and slowly is becoming a part of him.
“How’s your sex life?” I asked him. He hated you to ask him stuff like that. (187)
Holden meets up with Luce for his “intellectual” conversation, yet the way he behaves, such as asking Luce about his sex life, an immature question and one he knows Luce hates. Holden has taken his opportunity for an intellectual conversation with someone he just called enlightening, and throw that opportunity out the window. Holden needs to grow up and behave more maturely especially if actually wants to get the things he talks about.
“Have just one more drink,” I told him. “Please. I’m lonesome as hell. No kidding.” (193)
Holden has messed up his conversation with Luce, and Luce is about to leave when Holden’s true feelings come out. Holden is lonely, and he needs someone to talk to. He is depressed, lonesome, and unfortunately his behavior is pushing people away. I can relate to Holden, because I, too, have let my depression and lonesome feelings push people away.
Boy, I sat at that goddam bar till around one o’clock or so, getting drunk as a bastard. (194)
Holden is sad, lonely, and in need of comforting. Unfortunately, Holden decides to turn to alchohol for that comfort. This demonstrates how Holden behaves when having problems, showing another immature side of him. This is also the first signs of alcoholism, and is this path is not a good choice for a teenager to walk. Holden needs help badly, before he drinks himself to death.
I started thinking how old Phoebe would feel if I got pneumonia and died. It was a childish way to think, but I couldn’t stop myself. (202)
When depression strikes a teenager, sometimes they wonder what happens if they were gone. Holden is curious about how Phoebe would react if he were to die. This cry for help demonstrates the severity of Holden’s depression,his longing attention and his longing for someone to care.
I felt swell, for a change. I didn’t even feel like I was getting pneumonia or anything anymore. I just felt good, for a change. (207)
Holden has just arrived at home, and for the first time in a while, Holden is feeling happy. He is right about to see Phoebe, one of the closest and most important people to him, and it makes him happy. This demonstrates that Holden is not always a depressed and isolated person; it shows that there are people who still can get through to him.
“Holden!” she said right away. She put her arms around my neck and all. She’s very affectionate. (209)
This moment is a powerful moment between Holden and Phoebe. After a while of being apart, and especially after all the problems Holden has recently had, this reunion is very special to the Holden. His young sister that means the world to him is there, showing him that he means the world to her. It demonstrates the strength of their relationship, and it gives Holden a chance to get some advice, support, and attention he has been desperately seeking.
“I like Allie,” I said. “And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff, and –“ (222)
Holden has not opened up much about things he likes, and he certainly hasn’t shared many deep emotions with those around him. This is one of those rare moments with Holden where he expresses his deep feelings, some are which about missing Allie and always having a place for him in his heart.
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. I know it’s crazy.” (225)
This quote is extremely important because it’s the only time Holden expresses his dream and hopes for the future. He desires to be the catcher in the rye, watching over kids and keeping them out of harm’s way. I feel that the reason “catcher in the rye” became the title of this book is because it is the one moment where Holden discusses what his dream is.
She practically jumped off the bed, and then she waited while I took my shoes off, and then I danced with her for a while. (227)
I feel that this quote is important because it is a moment where Holden lets go of himself. He asks Phoebe to dance, and she jump at the chance to dance with her older brother. The two of them dance and have fun, and the whole time they are dancing, Holden is talking as a much happier person, with complete admiration for his sisters qualities. Being with Phoebe really brings out the sensitive, kind side of Holden.
Then, all the sudden, I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it. It scared the hell out of old Phoebe when I started doing it, and she came over and tried to make me stop, but once you get started, you can’t just stop on a goddam dime. I was still sitting on the edge of the bed when I did it, and she put her old arm around my neck, and I put my arm around her, too, but I still couldn’t stop for a long time. (233)
This is perhaps of the most important moments in the book. Holden has finally released his emotions and sadness into a downpour of tears. Bottling things up has not done much good for Holden, and being with the person that means more to him than anyone, he has the ability to allow his emotions to come out. As he is crying, Phoebe and Holden once again demonstrate the strength of their bond, as she puts his arm around him and he puts his around her. The bond between a brother and sister is one that is indescribable.
“Holden… One short, faintly stuffy, pedagogical question. Don’t you think there’s a time and place for everything? […]” (240)
Mr. Antolini asks Holden this question, and he brings up a good point to Holden. There is a time and place for everything, and Holden needs to learn that sometimes it is necessary to follow this rule. Holden’s interactions with Mr. Antolini are important because I feel that Mr. Antolini is like a father figure to Holden. This is important because Holden has never really had a strong father figure in his life, and Mr. Antolini and his advice act as a substitute.
“I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don’t honestly know what kind…[…]” (242)
When Mr. Antolini says this, I feel he is dead on accurate. Holden is riding the terrible fall of the tragedy of his brother’s death. The death of one so close to him sent him spiraling into a deep depression, and has forever altered his life. Holden has experience much more sadness and pain than most people his age have, which may explain why all the “phony things” bother him; he realizes that there are more important things that deserve his attention.
Every time I’d get to the end of a block, I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.” And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner. (257)
Holden is sad, afraid that he may just disappear and become nothing. He begins praying to his brother, asking for his protection and help. This is one of the few moments where Holden expresses his feelings about Allie, and essentially, the root cause of his depression. When Holden goes through this, it is as if communicating with Allie to him is just like somebody communicating with a higher power.
“Why can’t I? Please, Holden! I won’t do anything – I’ll just go with you, that’s all! I won’t even take my clothes with me if you don’t want me to- I’ll just take my-” (267)
Holden has just met up with Phoebe after leaving her a note explaining that he runs away. When she arrives, she has herself all packed to go with him. This moment is possibly the most moving moment in the entire book. Phoebe is willing to give up everything in her life and her future just to remain with her brother. It is touching to see how powerful their bond is. Their bond is what keeps them going through the tough times, such as Allie’s death.
A lot of people, especially this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keep asking me if I’m going to apply myself when I go back to school next September. It’s such a stupid question, in my opinion. I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it? The answer us, you don’t. (276)
This quote is important because Holden is right when he says you don’t know what you’re going to do till you do it. It is impossible to predict the future, and until the time comes to make that choice, all that can be done is think about it. Once it comes time to make that choice though, things may go as planned or things may suddenly change.
If you want to know the truth, I don’t know what I think about it. (276)
Holden brings up another good point in this quote. Sometimes a situation is so bad, out of the ordinary, or any other reason, that it is just impossible to know what to think about it. I have experienced this and still experience this feeling; the feeling of just not knowing what to think. Sometimes though, not knowing what to think is better than trying to know.