The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 25 Quotes
How we cite the quotes:
But while I was sitting down, I saw something that drove me crazy. Somebody'd written "Fuck you" on the wall. It drove me damn near crazy. I thought how Phoebe and all the other little kids would see it, and how they'd wonder what the hell it meant, and then finally some dirty kid would tell them – all cockeyed, naturally – what it meant, and how they'd all think about it and maybe even worry about it for a couple of days. I kept wanting to kill whoever'd written it. I figured it was some perverty bum that'd sneaked in the school late at night to take a leak or something and then wrote it on the wall. I kept picturing myself catching him at it, and how I'd smash his head on the stone steps till he was good and goddam dead and bloody. But I knew, too, I wouldn't have the guts to do it. I knew that. That made me even more depressed. (25.16)
Ouch. Holden, baby, sorry to break it to you—but it was almost certainly one of the kids who wrote that. At least, judging by our elementary school, it was.
I went down by a different staircase, and I saw another "Fuck you" on the wall. I tried to rub it off with my hand again, but this one was scratched on, with a knife or something. It wouldn't come off. It's hopeless, anyway. If you had a million years to do it in, you couldn't rub out even half the "Fuck you" signs in the world. It's impossible. (25.18)
It’s impossible to erase all the filth (and phoniness), so you either have to learn to live with the fact that the world simply isn’t innocent, or… not. And “not” involves some really unpleasant options, like having a mental breakdown or committing suicide.
That's the whole trouble. You can't ever find a place that's nice and peaceful, because there isn't any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you're not looking, somebody'll sneak up and write "Fuck you" right under your nose. I think, even, if I ever die, and they stick me in a cemetery, and I have a tombstone and all, it'll say "Holden Caulfield" on it, and then what year I was born and what year I died, and then right under that it'll say "Fuck you." I'm positive, in fact. (25.39)
Check out how this passage connects two of Holden's major obsessions: mortality and the "filth" of the world (which many would categorize under "loss of innocence"). This reminds us that, in a way, growing up—getting exposed to "filth" and various "fuck you"s—is a sort of death in itself: a death of innocence. We just suspect that it happens a lot earlier than Holden thinks.