The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield Quotes
There was this magazine that somebody'd left on the bench next to me, so I started reading it. […] It was all about hormones. It described how you should look. […] I looked exactly like the guy with lousy hormones. So I started getting worried about my hormones. Then I read this other article about how you can tell if you have cancer or not. It said if you had any sores in your mouth that didn't heal pretty quickly, it was a sign that you probably had cancer. I'd had this sort on the inside of my lip for about two weeks. So figured [sic] I was getting cancer. That magazine was some little cheerer upper.
Nice. On top of everything else, Holden now thinks he’s dying of cancer—even though it’s probably just stress.
"Well. . . they'll be pretty irritated about it," I said. "They really will. This is about the fourth school I've gone to." I shook my head. I shake my head quite a lot. "Boy!" I said. I also say "Boy!" quite a lot. (2.22)
Holden obviously has an issue with formal education. (Or, maybe formal education has an issue with him?) But before you write him off as being anti-education, start keeping an eye out for what kind of informal instruction he pursues throughout The Catcher in the Rye.
"Oh, I have a few qualms, all right. Sure. . . but not too many. Not yet, anyway. I guess it hasn't really hit me yet. It takes things a while to hit me. All I'm doing right now is thinking about going home Wednesday. I'm a moron."
"Do you feel absolutely no concern for your future, boy?"
"Oh, I feel some concern for my future, all right. Sure. Sure, I do." I thought about it for a minute. "But not too much, I guess. Not too much, I guess."
"You will," old Spencer said. "You will, boy. You will when it's too late." (2.64-67)
Compare this conversation with Spencer to Holden's later conversation with Mr. Antolini. There seems to be some structural significance to these two conversations being placed—almost like bookends—around the rest of the text. Both men refer to some sort of crisis or downfall that Holden is surely approaching. Both talk (if somewhat indirectly here) about the importance of education. Both are a little gross—the white, hairless legs of Mr. Spencer and the fact that Mr. Antolini touches Holden while he's sleeping. How does Holden react here? Is it different from the way he reacts later?