The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye Youth Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)
"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.
I ordered a Scotch and soda, and told him not to mix it—I said it fast as hell, because if you hem and haw, they think you're under twenty-one and won't sell you any intoxicating liquor. I had trouble with him anyway, though. "I'm sorry, sir," he said, "but do you have some verification of your age? Your driver's license, perhaps?" I gave him this very cold stare, like he'd insulted the hell out of me, and asked him, "Do I look like I'm under twenty-one?"
"I'm sorry, sir, but we have our—"
"Okay, okay," I say. I figured the hell with it. "Bring me a Coke." He started to go away, but I called him back. "Can'tcha stick a little rum in it or something?" I asked him. I asked him very nicely and all. "I can't sit in a corny place like this cold sober. Can'tcha stick a little rum in it or something?"
"I'm very sorry, sir…" he said, and beat it on me. I didn't hold it against him, though. They lose their jobs if they get caught selling to a minor. I'm a goddam minor. (10.6-10)
Holden doesn’t mind being young—right up until it prevents him from getting a drink. That’s the thing about growing up: you lose something things (like innocence) but you gain others—like the privilege of hangover. Hm. Doesn’t sound so appealing, when you put it like that.
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?