The Catcher in the Rye
Mortality Quotes Page 5
How we cite our quotes:
Anyway, I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, I had this feeling that I'd never get to the other side of the street. I thought I'd just go down, down, down, and nobody'd ever see me again. Boy, did it scare me. You can't imagine. I started sweating like a bastard – my whole shirt and underwear and everything. Then I started doing something else. Every time I'd get to the end of a block I'd make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I'd say to him, "Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Allie, don't let me disappear. Please, Allie." And then when I'd reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I'd thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner. But I kept going and all. I was sort of afraid to stop, I think – I don't remember, to tell you the truth. I know I didn't stop till I was way up in the Sixties, past the zoo and all. Then I sat down on this bench. I could hardly get my breath, and I was still sweating like a bastard. I sat there, I guess, for about an hour. (25.8)
What would it mean for Holden to disappear? Notice that he doesn't ask not to get hit by a car, not to fall down a pothole, not to get struck by lightning; he asks not to disappear. It seems as though he's talking about dying here, but isn't able to use that label. Part of this may have to do with Holden not fully understanding how to deal with death – the death of his brother and his own mortality. Instead of facing the very real nature of death, he makes it supernatural and calls it "disappearing" instead of "dying."
Finally, what I decided I'd do, I decided I'd go away. I decided I'd never go home again and I'd never go away to another school again. […] I thought what I'd do was, I'd pretend I was one of those deaf-mutes. That way I wouldn't have to have any goddam stupid useless conversations with anybody. […] Everybody'd think I was just a poor deaf-mute bastard and they'd leave me alone. […] I'd meet this beautiful girl that was also a deaf-mute and we'd get married. She'd come and live in my cabin with me, and if she wanted to say anything to me, she'd have to write it on a goddam piece of paper, like everybody else. If we had any children, we'd hide them somewhere. We could buy them a lot of books and teach them how to read and write by ourselves. (25.8)
After his encounter with Mr. Antolini, Holden imagines a kind of symbolic death: as a deaf-mute, he wouldn’t have to speak or listen to anybody—to interact with the world at all. But even this fantasy involves meeting another deaf-mute, because he just can’t stand to be alone. (There’s probably a dating website for exactly these kinds of pairings.)
Finally we found the place where the mummies were, and we went in.
"You know how the Egyptians buried their dead?" I asked the one kid. "Naa."
"Well, you should. It's very interesting. They wrapped their faces up in these cloths that were treated with some secret chemical. That way they could be buried in their tombs for thousands of years and their faces wouldn't rot or anything. Nobody knows how to do it except the Egyptians. Even modern science." (25.32-35)
Here’s something weird: The mummies don't worry Holden the way the ducks do, even though they’re dead. The mummies are preserved. This makes us think that Holden is more upset that Allie appears to have “disappeared” than he’s dead per se.