The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 24 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
"Here's what he said: 'The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.'" (24.56)
It sounds here like Mr. Antolini might be worried that Holden’s going to commit suicide. But what’s Holden’s “cause”? He wants to be the catcher in the rye—to protect the innocence of youth. If Holden did manage to turn himself away from the rest of the [adult] world, as a kind of recluse, maybe he would “die nobly.”
"And I hate to tell you," he said, "but I think that once you have a fair idea where you want to go, your first move will be to apply yourself in school. You'll have to. You're a student – whether the idea appeals to you or not. You're in love with knowledge. And I think you'll find, once you get past all the Mr. Vineses […] you're going to start getting closer and closer – that is, if you want to, and if you look for it and wait for it – to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart. Among other things, you'll find that you're not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You're by no means alone on that score, you'll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You'll learn from them - if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It's a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn't education. It's history. It's poetry." (24.60-62)
Mr. Antolini gives us a new perspective: education is of inherent value itself rather than a means to a martini/golfing/monetary end, and it’s a way of connecting to people who feel just the same things you do. Is this a convincing argument? And—just a thought—could it be that this book we’re reading is the “something” that Holden has to teach?
"I'm not trying to tell you," he said, "that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It's not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they're brilliant and creative to begin with – which, unfortunately, is rarely the case – tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And – most important – nine times out of ten they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker. Do you follow me at all?" (24.62)
We’re not sure, but we have a suspicion that this is pretty close to Salinger's perspective. Mr. Antolini does seem to have a genuine love for his students (if possibly an inappropriate one…) and a genuine respect for learning. He doesn’t berate Holden; he talks to him like an equal.