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The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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The Catcher in the Rye | Quotes


If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born ... and all that David Copperfield kind of crap.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 1

The novel's first sentence establishes The Catcher in the Rye as a fictional autobiography, in which a narrator tells about his life, and rejects that genre's rules. Immediately Holden Caulfield presents himself as in control of his story.


I'm the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It's awful.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 3

This speech reveals Holden's love of narrative and warns readers that he is an unreliable narrator.


You take a very handsome guy ... and they're always asking you to do them a big favor.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 4

Holden is describing Stradlater. His assessment of the quid pro quo nature of adult life is not incorrect, and his observation about Stradlater shows he understands that some people feel entitled to take more than their share. Holden considers such behavior phony.


People always clap for the wrong things.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 12

The crowd's mad applause for Ernie's embellished piano style is further evidence for Holden that the phony adult world values the wrong things.


The trouble with me is, I stop. Most guys don't. I can't help it. ... I get to feeling sorry for them.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 13

Holden's ambivalence about sex is caused in part by his sources of information. His peers brag about sexual encounters, but Holden doesn't know whether they're telling the truth. If they are, then they are taking advantage of the girls. Such behavior clashes with Holden's protective, respectful, and basically decent nature.


The thing is, it's really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 15

One phony aspect of the adult world is class distinctions, which are manifested by how people dress and what they own. Wealth shouldn't matter, but it does. Intelligence and wit should matter, but they don't. This depresses Holden.


The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 16

Holden's love for the museum stems from the fact that nothing changes there. The museum is a stark contrast to his own life and to the process of transitioning from adolescence to adulthood.


And I'd be working in some office ... and going to the movies and seeing a lot of stupid ... newsreels. Newsreels.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 17

Holden describes to Sally his vision of adult life, which is to say his vision of hell, to contrast with his fantasy life in the cabin.


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.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 22

Holden shows that the only role he can picture himself in as an adult is as someone who protects innocent children. Evoking the key symbol in the novel, he displays his ambivalence toward becoming an adult.


I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It's nice.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 24

Holden explains to Mr. Antolini why he prefers digressions to staying on topic. His own excitement about the subject reveals his intellectual curiosity and suggests that, once he discovers a field of study that interests him, he'll do fine academically.


Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

Holden Caulfield, Chapter 26

Holden's final lines are evidence that the alienated and lonely young man was, in fact, seeking and finding human connection. The people who cross paths with him during the madman days shape him, and he feels their absence now that he is a continent away from them.

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