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The Catcher in the Rye [JD Salinger]

1919-2010

J.D. Salinger‘s classic coming-of-age story portrays one young man’s funny and poignant experiences with life, love, and sex. Ever since it was first published in 1951, this novel has been the coming-of-age story against which all others are judged. Read and cherished by generations, the story of Holden Caulfield is truly one of America’s literary treasures.


TcItR

•→ Read & Listen @ http://esl-bits.net ⇐[full book]

 Jd-salinger-the-catcher-in-the-rye-chap-1-annotated

◊ Read the start  ↓ of the book . . .

•  Chapter 1

IF YOU REALLY WANT TO HEAR about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. In the first place, that stuff bores me, and in the second place, my parents would have about two hemorrhages apiece if I told anything pretty personal about them. They’re quite touchy about anything like that, especially my father. They’re nice and allóI’m not saying that—but they’re also touchy as hell. Besides, I’m not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything. I’ll just tell you about this madman stuff that happened to me around last Christmas just before I got pretty run-down and had to come out here and take it easy. I mean that’s all I told D.B. about, and he’s my brother and all. He’s in Hollywood. That isn’t too far from this crumby place, and he comes over and visits me practically every week end. He’s going to drive me home when I go home next month maybe. He just got a Jaguar. One of those lithe English jobs that can do around two hundred miles an hour. It cost him damn near four thousand bucks. He’s got a lot of dough, now. He didn’t use to. He used to be just a regular writer, when he was home. He wrote this terrific book of short stories, The Secret Goldfish, in case you never heard of him. The best one in it was «The Secret Goldfish.» It was about this little kid that wouldn’t let anybody look at his goldfish because he’d bought it with his own money. It killed me. Now he’s out in Hollywood, D.B., being a prostitute. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.

Where I want to start telling is the day I left Pencey Prep. Pencey Prep is this school that’s in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. You probably heard of it. You’ve probably seen the ads, anyway. They advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hot-shot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time. I never even once saw a horse anywhere near the place. And underneath the guy on the horse’s picture, it always says: «Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men.» Strictly for the birds. They don’t do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school. And I didn’t know anybody there that was splendid and clear-thinking and all. Maybe two guys. If that many. And they probably came to Pencey that way.

Anyway, it was the Saturday of the football game with Saxon Hall. The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pencey. It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn’t win. I remember around three o’clock that afternoon I was standing way the hell up on top of Thomsen Hill, right next to this crazy cannon that was in the Revolutionary War and all. You could see the whole field from there, and you could see the two teams bashing each other all over the place. You couldn’t see the grandstand too hot, but you could hear them all yelling, deep and terrific on the Pencey side, because practically the whole school except me was there, and scrawny and faggy on the Saxon Hall side, because the visiting team hardly ever brought many people with them.

There were never many girls at all at the football games. Only seniors were allowed to bring girls with them. It was a terrible school, no matter how you looked at it. I like to be somewhere at least where you can see a few girls around once in a while, even if they’re only scratching their arms or blowing their noses or even just giggling or something. Old Selma Thurmer—she was the headmaster’s daughter—showed up at the games quite often, but she wasn’t exactly the type that drove you mad with desire. She was a pretty nice girl, though. I sat next to her once in the bus from Agerstown and we sort of struck up a conversation. I liked her. She had a big nose and her nails were all bitten down and bleedy-looking and she had on those damn falsies that point all over the place, but you felt sort of sorry for her. What I liked about her, she didn’t give you a lot of horse manure about what a great guy her father was. She probably knew what a phony slob he was.

The reason I was standing way up on Thomsen Hill, instead of down at the game, was because I’d just got back from New York with the fencing team. I was the goddam manager of the fencing team. Very big deal. We’d gone in to New York that morning for this fencing meet with McBurney School. Only, we didn’t have the meet. I left all the foils and equipment and stuff on the goddam subway. It wasn’t all my fault. I had to keep getting up to look at this map, so we’d know where to get off. So we got back to Pencey around two-thirty instead of around dinnertime. The whole team ostracized me the whole way back on the train. It was pretty funny, in a way.

The other reason I wasn’t down at the game was because I was on my way to say good-by to old Spencer, my history teacher. He had the grippe, and I figured I probably wouldn’t see him again till Christmas vacation started. He wrote me this note saying he wanted to see me before I went home. He knew I wasn’t coming back to Pencey.

I forgot to tell you about that. They kicked me out. I wasn’t supposed to come back after Christmas vacation, on account of I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all. They gave me frequent warning to start applying myself—especially around mid-terms, when my parents came up for a conference with old Thurmer—but I didn’t do it. So I got the ax. They give guys the ax quite frequently at Pencey. It has a very good academic rating, Pencey. It really does.

Anyway, it was December and all, and it was cold as a witch’s teat, especially on top of that stupid hill. I only had on my reversible and no gloves or anything. The week before that, somebody’d stolen my camel’s-hair coat right out of my room, with my fur-lined gloves right in the pocket and all. Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these very wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has—I’m not kidding. Anyway, I kept standing next to that crazy cannon, looking down at the game and freezing my ass off. Only, I wasn’t watching the game too much. What I was really hanging around for, I was trying to feel some kind of a good-by. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was lean7ing them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-by or a bad good-by, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t, you feel even worse.

I was lucky. All of a sudden I thought of something that helped make me know I was getting the hell out. I suddenly remembered this time, in around October, that I and Robert Tichener and Paul Campbell were chucking a football around, in front of the academic building. They were nice guys, especially Tichener. It was just before dinner and it was getting pretty dark out, but we kept chucking the ball around anyway. It kept getting darker and darker, and we could hardly see the ball any more, but we didn’t want to stop doing what we were doing. Finally we had to. This teacher that taught biology, Mr. Zambesis stuck his head out of this window in the academic building and told us to go back to the dorm and get ready for dinner. If I get a chance to remember that kind of stuff, I can get a good-by when I need one—at least, most of the time I can. As soon as I got it, I turned around and started running down the other side of the hill, toward old Spencer’s house. He didn’t live on the campus. He lived on Anthony Wayne Avenue.

I ran all the way to the main gate, and then I waited a second till I got my breath. I have no wind, if you want to know the truth. I’m quite a heavy smoker, for one thing—that is, I used to be. They made me cut it out. Another thing, I grew six and a half inches last year. That’s also how I practically got t.b. and came out here for all these goddam checkups and stuff. I’m pretty healthy, though.

Anyway, as soon as I got my breath back I ran across Route 204. It was icy as hell and I damn near fell down. I don’t even know what I was running for—I guess I just felt like it. After I got across the road, I felt like I was sort of disappearing. It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road.

Boy, I rang that doorbell fast when I got to old Spencer’s house. I was really frozen. My ears were hurting and I could hardly move my fingers at all. «C’mon, c’mon,» I said right out loud, almost, «somebody open the door.» Finally old Mrs. Spencer opened it. They didn’t have a maid or anything, and they always opened the door themselves. They didn’t have too much dough.

«Holden!» Mrs. Spencer said. «How lovely to see you! Come in, dear! Are you frozen to death?» I think she was glad to see me. She liked me. At least, I think she did.

Boy, did I get in that house fast. «How are you, Mrs. Spencer?» I said. «How’s Mr. Spencer?»

«Let me take your coat, dear,» she said. She didn’t hear me ask her how Mr. Spencer was. She was sort of deaf.

She hung up my coat in the hall closet, and I sort of brushed my hair back with my hand. I wear a crew cut quite frequently and I never have to comb it much. «How’d you been, Mrs. Spencer?» I said again, only louder, so she’d hear me.

«I’ve been just fine, Holden.» She closed the closet door. «How have you been?» The way she asked me, I knew right away old Spencer’d told her I’d been kicked out.

«Fine,» I said. «How’s Mr. Spencer? He over his grippe yet?»

«Over it! Holden, he’s behaving like a perfect—I don’t know what . . . He’s in his room, dear. Go right in.»

◊  Chapter 2   ↓  [Brendan reads an excerpt . . .]

‘I flunked you in History simply because you knew absolutely nothing.’

‘I know that, sir. Boy, I know it. You couldn’t help it.’

‘Absolutely nothing,’ he said over again. That’s something that drives me crazy. When people say something twice that way, after you admit it the first time. Then he said three times. ‘But absolutely nothing. I doubt very much if you opened your textbook even once the whole term. Did you? Tell the truth, boy.’

‘Well, I sort of glanced through it a couple of times,’ I told him, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He was mad about History.

‘You glanced through it, eh?’ he said – very sarcastic. ‘Your, ah, exam paper is over there on top of the chiffonier. On top of the pile. Bring it here, please.’

It was a very dirty trick, but I went over and brought it over to him – I didn’t have any alternative or anything. Then I sat down on his cement bed again. Boy, you can’t imagine how sorry I was getting that I’d stopped by to say good-bye to him.

He started handling my exam paper like it was a turd or something. ‘We studied the Egyptians from November 4th to December 2nd,’ he said. ‘You chose to write about them for the optional essay question. Would you care to hear what you had to say?’

‘No, sir, not very much,’ I said.

He read it anyway, though. You can’t stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it.

«The Egyptians were an ancient race of Caucasian residing in one of the northern sections of Africa. The latter as we all know is the largest continent in the eastern hemisphere.»

I had to sit there and listen to that crap. It certainly was a dirty trick.

«The Egyptians are extremely interesting to us today or various reasons. Modern science would still like to know what the secret ingredients were that the Egyptians used when they wrapped up dead people so that their faces would not rot for innumerable centuries. This interesting riddle is still quite a challenge to modern science in the twentieth century.»

He stopped reading and put my paper down. I was beginning to sort of hate him. ‘Your essay, shall we say, ends there,’ he said in this very sarcastic voice. You wouldn’t think such an old guy would be so sarcastic and all. ‘However, you dropped me a little note, at the bottom of the page,’ he said.

‘I know I did,’ I said. I said it very fast because I wanted to stop him before he started reading that out loud. But you couldn’t stop him. He was hot as a firecracker.

«Dear Mr Spencer,» he read out loud. «That is all I know about the Egyptians. I can’t seem to get very interested in them although your lectures are very interesting. It is all right if you flunk me though as I am flunking everything else except English anyway. Respectfully yours, Holden Caulfield.»

He put my goddam paper down then and looked at me like he’d just beaten hell  out of me in ping-pong or something. I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for reading me that crap out loud. I wouldn’t’ve read it out loud to him if he’d written it–I really wouldn’t.  In the first place, I’d only written that damn note so that he wouldn’t feel too bad about flunking me.

«Do you blame me for flunking you, boy?» he said.

«No, sir! I certainly don’t,» I said. I wished to hell he’d stop calling me «boy» all the time.

He tried chucking my exam paper on the bed when he was through with it. Only, he missed again, naturally. I had to get up again and pick it up and put it on top of the Atlantic Monthly. It’s boring to do that every two minutes.

«What would you have done in my place?» he said. «Tell the truth, boy.»

Well, you could see he really felt pretty lousy about flunking me. So I shot the bull for a while. I told him I was a real moron, and all that stuff. I told him how I would’ve done exactly the same thing if I’d been in his place, and how most people didn’t appreciate how tough it is being a teacher. That kind of stuff. The old bull.
The funny thing is, though, I was sort of thinking of something else while I shot the bull. I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go? I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away.
◊  Chapter 3   ↓  [excerpt . . .]

I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible. So when I told old Spencer I had to go to the gym to get my equipment and stuff, that was a sheer lie. I don’t even keep my goddam equipment in the gym.

Where I lived at Pencey, I lived in the Ossenburger Memorial Wing of the new dorms. It was only for Juniors and Seniors. I was a Junior. My room-mate was a Senior. It was named after this guy Ossenburger that went to Pencey. He made a pot of dough in the undertaking business after he got out of Pencey. What he did, he started these undertaking parlours all over the country that you could get members of your family buried for about five bucks apiece. You should see old Ossenburger. He probably just shoves them in a sack and dumps them in the river. Anyway, he gave Pencey a pile of dough, and they named our wing after him. The first football game of the year, he came up to school in a big goddam Cadillac, and we all had to stand up in the gradstand and give him a locomotive – that’s a cheer. Then, the next morning, in chapel, he made a speech that lasted about ten hours. He started off with about fifty corny jokes, just to show us what a regular guy he was. Very big deal. Then he started telling us how he was never ashamed, when he was in some kind of trouble or something, to get right down on his knees and pray to God. He told us we should always pray to God – talk to Him and all – wherever we are. He told us we ought to think of Jesus as our buddy and all. He said he talked to Jesus all the time. Even when he was driving his car. That killed me. I can see the big phoney bastard shifting into first gear and asking Jesus to send him a few more stiffs. The only good part of his speech was right in the middle of it. He was telling us all about what a swell guy he was, what a hot-shot and all, then all of a sudden this guy sitting in the row in front of me, Edgar Marsalla, laid this terrific fart. It was a very crude thing to do, in chapel and all, but it was also quite amusing. Old Marsalla. He damn near blew the roof off. Hardly anybody laughed out loud, and old Ossenburger made out like he didn’t even hear it, but old Thurmer, the headmaster, was sitting next to him on the rostrum and all, and you could tell he heard it. Boy, was he sore. He didn’t say anything then, but the next night he made us have compulsory study hall in the academic building and he came up and made a speech. He said that the boy that had created the disturbance in chapel wasn’t fit to go to Pencey. We tried to get old Marsalla to rip off another one, right while old Thurmer was making his speech, but he wasn’t in the right mood. Anyway, that’s where I lived at Pencey. Old Ossenburger Memorial Wing, in the new dorms

. . .

•  Read another exceprt from  ↓ Chapter 4  –  A Secret Slob

Holden_Caulfield

I DIDN`T HAVE anything special to do, so I went down to the can and chewed the rag with him while he was shaving. We were only ones in the can, because everybody was still down at the game. It was hot as hell and the windows were all steamy. There were about ten washbowls, all right against the wall. Stradlater had the middle one. I sat down on the one right next to him and started turning the cold water on and off- this nervous habit I have. Stradlater kept whistling “Song of India” while he shaved. He had one of those very piercing whistles that are practically never in tune, and he always picked out some song that’s hard to whistle even if you` re a good whistler, like “Song of India” or “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue”. He could really mess a song up.

You remember I said before that Ackley was a slob in his personal habits? Well, so was Stradlater, but in a different way. Stradlater was more of a secret slob. He always looked all right, Stradlater, but for instance, you should’ve seen the razor he shaved himself with. It was always rusty as hell and full of lather and hairs and crap. He never cleaned it or anything. He always looked good when he was finished fixing himself up, but he was a secret slob anyway, if you knew him the way I did. The reason he fixed himself up to look good was because he was madly in love with himself. He thought he was the handsomest guy in the Western Hemisphere. He was pretty handsome, too – I’ll admit it. But he was mostly the kind of a handsome guy that if your parents saw his picture in your Year Book, they’d right away say, “Who’s this boy?” I mean he was mostly a Year Book kind of handsome guy. I knew a lot of guys at Pencey I thought were a lot handsomer that Stradlater, but they wouldn’t look handsome if you their pictures in the Year Book. They’d look like they had big noses or their ears stuck out. I’ve had that experience frequently.

Anyway, I was sitting in the washbowl next to where Stradlater was shaving, sort of turning the water on and off. I still had my red hunting hat on, with the peak around to the back and all. I really got a bang out of that hat.

“Hey,” Stradlater said. “Wanna do me a big favor?”

“What?” I said. Not too enthusiastic. He was always asking to do him a big favor. You take a very handsome guy, or a guy that thinks he’s real hot-shot, and they’re always asking to do them a big favor. Just because there’re crazy about themself, they think you’re crazy about them, too, and that you’re just dying to do them a favor. It’s sort of funny, in a way.

“You goin` out tonight?” he said. “I might. I might not. I don’t know. Why?” “I got about a hundred pages to read for history for Monday,” he said. “How`bout writing a composition for me, for English? I’ll be up the creek if I don’t get the goddam thing in by Monday, the reason I ask. How `bout it?”

It was very ironical. It really was.

I’m the one that’s flunking out of the goddam place, and you’re asking me to write you a goddam composition,” I said.

“Yeah, I know. The thing is, though, I’ll be up the creek if I don’t get it in. Be a buddy. Be a buddyroo. Okay?”

I didn’t answer him right away. Suspense is good for some bastards like Stradlater.

“What on?” I said.

“Anything. Anything descriptive. A room. Or a house. Or something you once lived in or something – you know. Just as long as it’s descriptive as hell.” He gave out a big yawn while he said that. Which is something that gives me a royal pain in the ass. I mean if somebody yawns right while they’re asking to do them a goddam favor. “Just don’t do it too good, is all,” he said. “That sonuvabitch Hartzell thinks you’re a hot-shot in English, and he knows you’re my roommate. So I mean don’t stick all commas and stuff in the right place.”

That’s something else that gives me a royal pain. I mean if you’re good at writing compositions and somebody starts talking about commas. Stradlater was always doing that. He wanted you to think that the only reason he was lousy at writing compositions was because he stuck all the commas in the wrong place. He was a little bit like Ackley, that way. I once sat next to Ackley at this basketball game. We had a terrific guy on the team, Howie Coyle, that could sink them from the middle of the floor, without even touching the backboard or anything. Ackley kept saying, the whole goddam game, that Coyle had a perfect build for basketball. God, how I hate that stuff.

I got bored sitting on that washbowl after a while, so I backed up a few feet and started doing this tap dance, just for the hell of it. I was just amusing myself. I can’t really tap-dance or anything, but it was a stone floor in the can, and it was good for tap-dancing. I started imitating one of those guys in the movies. In one of those musicals. I hate the movies like poison, but I get a bang imitating them. Old Stradlater watched me in the mirror while he was shaving. All I need’s an audience. I’m an exhibitionist. «I’m the goddam Governor’s son,» I said. I was knocking myself out. Tap-dancing all over the place. «He doesn’t want me to be a tap dancer. He wants me to go to Oxford. But it’s in my goddam blood, tap-dancing.»

Old Stradlater laughed. He didn’t have too bad a sense of humor.  «It’s the opening night of the Ziegfeld Follies.»

I was getting out of breath. I have hardly any wind at all. «The leading man can’t go on. He’s drunk as a bastard. So who do they get to take his place? Me, that’s who. The little ole goddam Governor’s son.»

«Where’dja get that hat?» Stradlater said. He meant my hunting hat. He’d never seen it before.

I was out of breath anyway, so I quit horsing around. I took off my hat and looked at it for about the ninetieth time. «I got it in New York this morning. For a buck. Ya like it?»

Stradlater nodded. «Sharp,» he said. He was only flattering me, though, because right away he said, «Listen. Are ya gonna write that composition for me? I have to know.»

¤            ¤                        ¤            ¤

♦ ♦  Two casual meetings from chapter 12  ↓  [slightly adapted]

– Hey, Horwitz. You ever pass by the lagoon in Central Park? Down by Central Park South?
– The what?
– The lagoon. That little lake, like, there. Where the ducks are. You know.
– Yeah, what about it?
– Well, you know the ducks that swim around it? In the springtime and all? Do you happen to know where they go in the winter-time, by any chance?
– Where who does?
– The ducks. Do you know, by any chance? I mean, does somebody come around in a truck or something and take them away, or do they fly away by themselves – go south or something?
– How the hell should I know? How the hell should I know a stupid thing like that?
– Well, don’t get sore about it.
– Who’s sore? Nobody’s sore  [. . .]
– Would you care to stop off and have a drink with me somewhere?
– I ain’t got no time for no liquor, bud. How the hell old are you anyways? Why ain’tcha home in bed?
– I’m not tired.
– I must be going.
– Goodbye Horwitz.
– Goodbye   [.  .  .]

Liliam Simmons:  –  Holden Caulfield!
– Hi.
– How marvellous to see you! How’s your big brother?
– He’s fine. He’s in Hollywood.
– In Hollywood! How marvellous! What’s he doing?
– I don’t know. Writing.
– How exciting . . .
– We have to go to our table.
– Holden, come join us. Bring your drink.
– I was just leaving. I have to meet somebody.
– Well, you little so-and-so. All right for you. Tell your big brother I hate him, when you see him.
– I’ll do. Goodbye then.

⇓ · · · End of  Chapter 16   

It wasn’t as cold as it was the day before, but the sun still wasn’t out, and it wasn’t too nice for walking. But there was one nice thing. This family that you could tell just came out of some church were walking right in front of me–a father, a mother, and a little kid about six years old. They looked sort of poor. The father had on one of those pearl-gray hats that poor guys wear a lot when they want to look sharp. He and his wife were just walking along, talking, not paying any attention to their kid. The kid was swell. He was walking in the street, instead of on the sidewalk, but right next to the curb. He was making out like he was walking a very straight line, the way kids do, and the whole time he kept singing and humming. I got up closer so I could hear what he was singing. He was singing that song, «If a body catch a body coming through the rye.» He had a pretty little voice, too. He was just singing for the hell of it, you could tell. The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing «If a body catch a body coming through he rye.» It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more.

◊  End of chapter 18 ↓

After the movie was over, I started walking down to the Wicker Bar, where I was supposed to meet old Carl Luce, and while I walked I sort of thought about war and all. Those war movies always do that to me. I don’t think I could stand it if I had to go to the war. I really couldn’t. It wouldn’t be too bad if they’d just take you out and shoot you or something, but you have to stay in the Army so goddam long. That’s the whole trouble. My brother D.B. was in the Army for four goddam years. He was in the war, too – he landed on D-Day and all – but I really think he hated the Army worse than the war. I was practically a child at the time, but I remember when he used to come home on furlough and all, all he did was lay on his bed, practically. He hardly ever even came in the living-room. Later, when he went overseas and was in the war and all, he didn’t get wounded or anything and he didn’t have to shoot anybody. All he had to do was drive some cowboy general around all day in a command car. He once told Allie and I that if he’d had to shoot anybody, he wouldn’t’ve known which direction to shoot in. He said the Army was practically as full of bastards as the Nazis were. I remember Allie once asked him wasn’t it sort of good that he was in the war because he was a writer and it gave him a lot to write about and all.  He made Allie go get his baseball mitt and then he asked him who was the best war poet, Rupert Brooke or Emily Dickinson. Allie said Emily Dickinson. I don’t know much about myself, because i don’t read much poetry, but I do know it’d drive me mad if I had to be in the Army and be with a bunch of guys like Ackley and Stradlater and old Maurice all the time, marching with them and all. I was in the Boy Scouts once, for about a week, and I couldn’t even stand looking at the back of the guy’s neck in fronbt of me. They kept telling you to look at the back of the guy’s neck in front of you. I swear if there’s ever another war, they better just take me out and stick me in front of a firing squad. I wouldn’t object. What gets me about D.B., though, he hated the war so much, and yet he got me to read this book A Farewell to Arms last summer. He said it was terrific. That’s what I can’t understand. It had this guy in it named Lieutenant Henry that was supposed to be a nice guy and all. I don’t see how D.B. could hate the army and war and all so much and still like a phoney book like that. I mean, for instance, I don’t see how he could like a phoney book like that and still like that one by Ring Lardner, or that other one he’s so crazy about, The Great Gatsby. D.B. got sore when I said that, and said I was too young and all to appreciate it, but I don’t think so. I told him I liked Ring Lardner and The Great Gatsby and all. I did, too. I was crazy about The Great Gatsby. Old Gatsby. Old sport. That killed me. Anyway, I’m sort of glad they’ve got the atomic bomb invented. If there’s ever another war, I’m going to sit right the hell on top of it. I’ll volunteer for it, I swear to God I will.

TcItR
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•  In this excerpt [from chapter 22], Holden Caulfield has sneaked into his family’s Manhattan apartment to visit his beloved little sister, Phoebe. She learns that he has just flunked out of prep school again and scolds him: a pivotal core of the story – at least as far as understanding what the title of the book stands for.
_

… Old Phoebe said something then, but I couldn’t hear her. She had the side of her mouth right smack on the pillow, and I couldn’t hear her.

‘What? I said. ‘Take your mouth away. I can’t hear you with your mouth that way.’

‘You don’t like anything that’s happening.’ It made me even more depressed when she said that.

‘Yes, I do. Yes, I do. Sure I do. Don’t say that. Why the hell do you say that?’

‘Because you don’t. You don’t like any schools. You don’t like a million things. You don’t.’

‘I do! That’s where you’re wrong – that’s exactly where you’re wrong! Why the hell do you have to say that?’ I said.

‘All right,’ I said. But the trouble was, I couldn’t concentrate. About all I could think of were those two nuns that went around collecting dough in those beat-up old straw baskets. Especially the one with the glasses with those iron rims. And this boy I knew at Elkton Hills. There was this one boy at Elkton Hills, named James Castle, that wouldn’t take back something he said about this very conceited boy, Phil Stabile. James Castle called him a very conceited guy, and one of Stabile’s lousy friends went and squealed on him to Stabile. So Stabile, with about six other dirty bastards, went down to James Castle’s room and went in and locked the goddam door and tried to make him take back what he said, but he wouldn’t do it. So they started in on him. I won’t even tell you what they did to him – it’s too repulsive – but he still wouldn’t take it back, old James Castle. And you should’ve seen him. He was a skinny little weak-looking guy, with wrists about as big as pencils. Finally, what he did, instead of taking back what he said, he jumped out the window. I was in the shower and all, and even I could hear him land outside. But I just thought something fell out the window, a radio or a desk or something, not a boy or anything. Then I heard everybody running through the corridor and down the stairs, so I put on my bathrobe and I ran downstairs, too, and there was old James Castle laying right on the stone steps and all. He was dead, and his teeth, and blood, were all over the place, and nobody would even go near him. He had on this turtleneck sweater I’d lent him. All they did with the guys that were in the room with him was expel them. They didn’t even go to gaol.

That was about all I could think of, though. Those two nuns I saw at breakfast and this boy James Castle I knew at Elkton Hills. The funny part is, I hardly even know James Castle, if you want to know the truth. He was one of these very quiet guys. He was in my Maths class, but he was way over on the other side of the room, and he hardly ever got up to recite or go to the blackboard or anything. Some guys in school hardly ever get up to recite or go to the blackboard. I think the only time I ever even had a conversation with him was that time he asked me if he could borrow this turtleneck sweater I had. I damn near dropped dead when he asked me, I was so surprised and all. I remember I was brushing my teeth, in the can, when he asked me. He said his cousin was coming up to take him for a drive and all. I didn’t even know he knew I had a turtleneck sweater. All I knew about him was that his name was always right ahead of me at roll call. Cabel, R., Cabel, W., Castle, Caulfield – I can still remember it. If you want to know the truth, I almost didn’t lend him my sweater. Just because I didn’t know him too well.

‘What?‘ I said to old Phoebe. She said something to me, but I didn’t hear her. ‘You can’t even think of one thing.’

‘Yes, I can. Yes, I can.’

‘Well, do it, then.’

‘I like Allie,’ I said. ‘And I like doing what I’m doing right now. Sitting here with you, and talking, and thinking about stuff, and -‘

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.’ Old Phoebe didn’t say anything. When she can’t think of anything to say, she doesn’t say a goddam word.

‘Anyway, I like it now,’ I said. ‘I mean right now. Sitting here with you and just chewing the fat and horsing -‘

‘That isn’t anything really!’

‘It is so something really! Certainly it is! Why the hell isn’t it? People never think anything is anything really. I’m getting goddam sick of it.

‘Stop swearing. All right, name something else. Name something you’d like to be. Like a scientist. Or a lawyer or something.’

‘I couldn’t be a scientist. I’m no good in Science.’

‘Well, a lawyer – like Daddy and all.’

‘Lawyers are all right, I guess – but it doesn’t appeal to me,’ I said. ‘I mean they’re all right if they go around saving innocent guys’ lives all the time, and like that, but you don’t do that kind of stuff if you’re a lawyer. All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink martinis and look like a hot-shot. And besides. Even if you did go around saving guys’ lives and all, how would you know if you did it because you really wanted to save guys’ lives, or you did it because what you really wanted to do was be a terrific lawyer, with everybody slapping you on the back and congratulating you in court when the goddam trial was over, the reporters and everybody, the way it is in the dirty movies? How would you know you weren’t being a phoney? The trouble is, you wouldn’t.’

I’m not too sure old Phoebe knew what the hell I was talking about. I mean she’s only a little child and all. But she was listening, at least. If somebody at least listens, it’s not too bad. ‘Daddy’s going to kill you. He’s going to kill you,’ she said.

I wasn’t listening, though. I was thinking about something else – something crazy. ‘You know what I’d like to be?’ I said. ‘You know what I’d like to be? I mean if I had my goddam choice?’

‘What? Stop swearing.’

‘You know that song «If a body catch a body comin’ through the rye»? I’d like-‘

‘It’s «If a body meet a body coming through the rye»!’ old Phoebe said. ‘It’s a poem. By Robert Burns.’

‘I know it’s a poem by Robert Burns.’ She was right, though. It is ‘If a body meet a body coming through the rye’. I didn’t know it then, though.

‘I thought it was «If a body catch a body»,‘ I said. ‘Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. And I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff – I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.’

Old Phoebe didn’t say anything for a long time. Then, when she said something, all she said was, ‘Daddy’s going to kill you.’

‘I don’t give a damn if he does,» I said. I got up from the bed then, because what I wanted to do, I wanted to phone up this guy that was my English teacher at Elkton Hills, Mr. Antolini. He lived in New York now. He quit Elkton Hills. He took this job teaching English at N.Y.U. ‘I have to make a phone call,’ I told Phoebe. ‘I’ll be right back. Don’t go to sleep.’ I didn’t want her to go to sleep while I was in the living room. I knew she wouldn’t but I said it anyway, just to make sure.

While I was walking toward the door, old Phoebe said, ‘Holden!’ and I turned around.She was sitting way up in bed. She looked so pretty. ‘I’m taking belching lessons from this girl, Phyllis Margulies,’ she said. ‘Listen.’

I listened, and I heard something, but it wasn’t much. ‘Good,’ I said. Then I went out in the living room and called up this teacher I had, Mr. Antolini.

•  Chapter 24  ↓ [Mr Antolini’s quotes]

«I had lunch with your dad a couple of weeks ago,» he said all of a sudden. «Did you know that?»

«No, I didn’t.»

«You’re aware, of course, that he’s terribly concerned about you.»

«I know it. I know he is,» I said.

«Apparently before he phoned me he’d just had a long, rather harrowing letter  from your latest headmaster, to the effect that you were making absolutely no effort at all. Cutting classes. Coming unprepared to all your classes. In general, being an all-around–«

«I didn’t cut any classes. You weren’t allowed to cut any. There were a couple of  them I didn’t attend once in a while, like that Oral Expression I told you about, but I didn’t cut any.»

I didn’t feel at all like discussing it. The coffee made my stomach feel a little  better, but I still had this awful headache. Mr. Antolini lit another cigarette. He smoked like a fiend. Then he said, «Frankly, I don’t know what the hell to say to you, Holden.»

«I know. I’m very hard to talk to. I realize that.»

«I have a feeling that you’re riding for some kind of a terrible, terrible fall. But I don’t honestly know what kind…Are you listening tome?»

«Yes.» You could tell he was trying to concentrate and all.

«It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, ‘It’s a secret between he and I.’ Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer. I just don’t know. But do you know what ‘m driving at at all?»

«Yes. Sure,» I said. I did too. «But you’re wrong about that hating business. I mean about hating football players and all. You really are. I don’t hate too many guys. What I may do, I may hate them for a little white, like this guy Stradlater I knew at Pencey, and this other boy, Robert Ackley. I hated them once in a while – I admit it- but it doesn’t last too long, is what I mean. After a while, if I didn’t see them, if they didn’t come in the room, or if I didn’t see them in the dining-room for  couple of meals, I sort of missed them. I mean, I sort of missed them.»

Mr Antolini didn’t say anything for a while. He got up and got another hunk of ice and put it in his drink, then he sat down again. You could tell he was thinking. I kept wishing, though, that he’sd continue the conversation in the morning, instead of now, but he was hot. People are mostly hot to have a discussion when you’re not.

«All right. Listen to me a minute now… I may not word this as memorably as I’d like to, but I’ll write you a letter about it in a day or two. Then you can get it all straight. But listen now, anyway.» He started concentrating again. Then he said, «This fall I think you’re riding for – it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling. The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started. You follow me?»

«Yes, sir.»

«Sure?»

«Yes.»

He got up and poured some more booze in his glass. Then he sat down again. He didn’t say anything for a long time.

«I don’t want to scare you,» he said, «but I can very clearly see you dying nobly, one way or another, for some highly unworthy cause.» He gave me a funny look. «If I write something down for you, will you read it carefully? And keep it?»

«Yes. Sure,» I said. I did, too. I still have the paper he gave me.

He went over to this desk on the other side of the room, and without sitting down wrote something on a piece of paper. Then he came back and sat down with the paper in his hand. «Oddly enough, this wasn’t written by a practicing poet. It was written by a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel. Here’s what he–Are you still with me?»

«Yes, sure I am.»

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.'» He leaned over and handed it to me. I read it right when he gave it to me, and then I thanked him and all and put it in my pocket. It was nice of him to go to all that trouble. It really was. The thing was, though, I didn’t feel much like concentrating. Boy, I felt so damn tired all of a sudden.

You could tell he wasn’t tired at all, though. He was pretty oiled up, for one thing.

«I think that one of these days,» he said, «you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there. But immediately. You can’t afford to lose a minute. Not you.»

I nodded, because he was looking right at me and all, but I wasn’t too sure what he was talking about. I was pretty sure I knew, but I wasn’t too positive at the time. I was too damn tired.

«And I hate to tell you,» he said, «but I think that once you have a fair idea where you want to go, your first move will be to apply yourself in school. You’ll have to. You’re a student – whether the idea appeals to you or not. You’re in love with knowledge. And I think you’ll find, once you get past all the Mr Vineses and their Oral Comp–«

«Mr Vinsosn,» I said. He meant all the Mr Vinsons, not all the Mr Vineses. I shouldn’t have interrupted him, though.

«All right – the Mr Vinsons. Once you get past the Mr Vinsons, you’re going to start getting closer and closer – that is, if you want to, and if you look for it and wait for it – to the kind of information that will be very, very dear to your heart. Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know. Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now. Happily, some of them kept records of their troubles. You’ll learn from them – if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.»

He stopped and took a big drink out of his highball. Then he started again. Boy, he was really hot. I was glad I didn’t try to stop him or anything.
«I’m not trying to tell you,» he said, «that only educated and scholarly men are able to contribute something valuable to the world. It’s not so. But I do say that educated and scholarly men, if they’re brilliant and creative to begin with–which, unfortunately, is rarely the case–tend to leave infinitely more valuable records behind them than men do who are merely brilliant and creative. They tend to express themselves more clearly, and they usually have a passion for following their thoughts through to the end. And–most important–nine times out of ten they have more humility than the unscholarly thinker. Do you follow me at all?»

«Yes, sir.»

He didn’t say anything again for quite a while. I don’t know if you’ve ever done it, but it’s sort of hard to sit around waiting for somebody to say something when they’re thinking and all. It really is. I kept trying not to yawn. It wasn’t that I was bored or anything–I wasn’t–but I was so damn sleepy all of a sudden.

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