The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 15 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
I knew this one Catholic boy, Louis Shaney, when I was at the Whooton School. […] Then, after a while, right in the middle of the goddam conversation, he asked me, "Did you happen to notice where the Catholic church is in town, by any chance?" The thing was, you could tell by the way he asked me that he was trying to find out if I was a Catholic. He really was. Not that he was prejudiced or anything, but he just wanted to know. He was enjoying the conversation about tennis and all, but you could tell he would've enjoyed it more if I was a Catholic and all. That kind of stuff drives me crazy. I'm not saying it ruined our conversation or anything—it didn't—but it sure as hell didn't do it any good. That's why I was glad those two nuns didn't ask me if I was a Catholic. It wouldn't have spoiled the conversation if they had, but it would've been different, probably. I'm not saying I blame Catholics. I don't. I'd be the same way, probably, if I was a Catholic. It's just like those suitcases I was telling you about, in a way. All I'm saying is that it's no good for a nice conversation. That's all I'm saying. (15.29)
Okay, we kind of love the comparison of the Catholic stuff to the suitcase business from a few paragraphs earlier. First, it's structurally brilliant, as Salinger ties together two otherwise distinct portions of the chapter—it tells us that we’re not reading the ramblings of some teenage kid; we’re reading a carefully crafted novel. Second, it tells us that Holden sees religion as creating barriers—just like class differences. Maybe that’s why Holden resents religion (and maybe class as well): he's searching for personal connections, and these categories are "no good for a nice conversation."