The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Wisdom and Knowledge Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"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?
"You ought to go to a boys' school sometime. Try it sometime," I said. "It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques." (17. 46)
Holden thinks that the whole point of education is to make you rich, so it’s inherently phony. To which we say—try being poor, Holden, and then turn up your nose at Cadillacs.
"Here's what he said: 'The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.'" (24.56)
It sounds here like Mr. Antolini might be worried that Holden’s going to commit suicide. But what’s Holden’s “cause”? He wants to be the catcher in the rye—to protect the innocence of youth. If Holden did manage to turn himself away from the rest of the [adult] world, as a kind of recluse, maybe he would “die nobly.”