The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Holden Caulfield Quotes
Anyway, I kept worrying that I was getting pneumonia, with all those hunks of ice in my hair, and that I was going to die. I felt sorry as hell for my mother and father. Especially my mother, because she still isn't over my brother Allie yet. I kept picturing her not knowing what to do with all my suits and athletic equipment and all. The only good thing, I knew she wouldn't let old Phoebe come to my goddam funeral because she was only a little kid. That was the only good part. Then I thought about the whole bunch of them sticking me in a goddam cemetery and all, with my name on this tombstone and all. Surrounded by dead guys. Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody. (20.41)
Holden is unable to romanticize the notion of death. To him, it can't be smoothed over with a lovely ceremony and a bunch of flowers. He sees it in its dark practicality – flowers might make some people feel better, but at the end of the day, the dead are still dead.
"Boy!" I said. I also say "Boy!" quite a lot. Partly because I have a lousy vocabulary and partly because I act quite young for my age sometimes. I was sixteen then, and I'm seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I'm about thirteen. It's really ironical, because I'm six foot two and a half and I have gray hair. I really do. The one side of my head – the right side – is full of millions of gray hairs. I've had them ever since I was a kid. And yet I still act sometimes like I was only about twelve. Everybody says that, especially my father. It's partly true, too, but it isn't all true. People always think something's all true. I don't give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am – I really do – but people never notice it. People never notice anything. (2.22)
Is it just us, or does “I act quite young for my age sometimes” sound a lot like Holden’s just repeating something adults have said to him? Notice that one side of his head is all gray—as thought part of him is still a kid, and part of him is all adult. Sounds about right to us.
It's immaterial to me," she said. "Hey—how old are you, anyhow?"
That annoyed me, for some reason. "Oh, Christ. Don't spoil it," I said. "I'm twelve, for Chrissake. I'm big for my age." (10.39-40)
Here’s a good reason to want to grow up: adults don’t take kids seriously. But do adults take each other seriously, either? Do we ever see two adults interacting—or is Holden’s perspective of adulthood skewed because he can only ever see it as something different and apart?