The Catcher in the Rye
The Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield Quotes Page 17
The one next to me, with the iron glasses, said she taught English and her friend taught history and American government. Then I started wondering like a bastard what the one sitting next to me, that taught English, thought about, being a nun and all, when she read certain books for English. Books not necessarily with a lot of sexy stuff in them, but books with lovers and all in them. Take old Eustacia Vye, in The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy. She wasn't too sexy or anything, but even so you can't help wondering what a nun maybe thinks about when she reads about old Eustacia. I didn't say anything, though, naturally. All I said was English was my best subject. (15.18)
We keep talking about how Holden sees people—not people's professions—yet here he has trouble getting past the fact that this woman is a nun. He might not have much respect for preachers or funeral directors, but he does seem to respect nuns.
"You don't like a million things. You don't.
[…] Name one thing."
"I like Allie."
"Allie's dead – You always say that! If somebody's dead and everything, and in Heaven, then it isn't really–"
"I know he's dead! Don't you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can't I? Just because somebody's dead, you don't just stop liking them, for God's sake – especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that're alive and all." (22.22-38)
Again, we see that Holden glorifies his dead brother. We don't doubt that Allie was a great person, but Holden, in his dissatisfaction with the existing world, can idealize his brother, instill in him all the values he feels are missing from reality. This, of course, only drives him further into isolation and anger at the people around him.
I stopped having a conversation with him, if he was going to get so damn touchy about it. But he started it up again himself. He turned all the way around again, and said, "The fish don't go no place. They stay right where they are, the fish. Right in the goddam lake."
[…] "Listen," he said. "If you was a fish, Mother Nature'd take care of you, wouldn't she? Right? You don't think them fish just die when it gets to be winter, do ya?"
"You're goddam right they don't," Horwitz said, and drove off like a bat out of hell. He was about the touchiest guy I ever met. Everything you said made him sore. (12.8-28)
Even when Holden does find someone else willing to discuss his interest in the ducks (and mortality), he classifies the man as "touchy" and possibly emotionally unstable. Pot, meet kettle: the cab driver isn't all that different from Holden, who experiences some emotional outbreaks of his own.