Essential Quotes by Character: Holden Caulfield
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 2
...I shook my head. I shake my head quite a lot. “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.
Holden Caulfield has been expelled from yet another school (his fourth) for failure to earn passing grades in four out of five classes. It is nearing Christmas break, and he will not be returning after the holidays. In preparation for his departure, Holden visits one of his favorite teachers, Mr. Spencer, his history teacher (one of the classes he failed). Mr. Spencer is old and is currently recovering from the grippe (the flu). Instead of a pleasant good-bye, Holden finds himself the recipient of the standard lecture from an adult to a teenage slacker. Holden is disappointed. Mr. Spencer questions him on the status of the news of his expulsion being delivered to his parents and their reaction to it. Holden knows that his parents will be irate when the letter from the headmaster arrives, so he has not yet told them about it. He does not want to explore this topic further with Mr. Spencer, someone whom he had once admired but has now found out to be a typically irritating adult.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 22
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. Boy, was she depressing me.
“Because you don’t,” she said. “Name one thing.”
“One thing? One thing I like?” I said. “Okay.”
The trouble was, I couldn’t concentrate too hot. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate.
After almost twenty-four hours of life on his own in New York City, Holden decides to sneak back home for the sole purpose of seeing his little sister, Phoebe. She is overjoyed to find him sitting on her bed, but her feelings change when she learns that her brother has been kicked out of another school. Her disappointment in him turns to anger, and she refuses to speak to him. Holden, who adores his little sister, is seriously bothered by her rejection and tries to speak to her. He tells her how horrible he found Pencey Prep, and the meanness of the teachers and his fellow students. But he is unsuccessful at eliciting any kind of sympathy from Phoebe. She buries her face in her pillow and accurately points out that Holden does not like anything. Holden is shocked at her insight and denies it, though he can think of little to substantiate his denial. Depressed to begin with at the meaningless and emptiness of his life, he sinks further into depression at his sisters rejection.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter 22...
(The entire section is 1737 words.)
Essential Quotes by Theme: Phoniness
Essential Passage 1: Chapter 13
...If you want to know the truth, I’m a virgin. I really am. I’ve had quite a few opportunities to lose my virginity and all, but I’ve never got around to it yet. Something always happens. For instance, if you’re at a girl’s house, her parents always come home at the wrong time—or you’re afraid they will. Or if you’re in the back seat of somebody’s car, there’s always somebody’s date in the front seat—some girl, I mean—that always wants to know what’s going on all over the whole goddam car. I mean some girl in front keeps turning around to see what the hell’s going on. Anyway, something always happens. I came quite close to doing it a couple of times, though. One time in particular, I remember. Something went wrong, though—I don’t even remember what any more. The thing is, most of the time when you’re coming pretty close to doing it with a girl—a girl that isn’t a prostitute or anything, I mean—she keeps telling you to stop. The trouble with me is, I stop. Most guys don’t. I can’t help it. You never know whether they really want you to stop, or whether they’re just scared as hell, or whether they’re just telling you to stop so that if you do go through with it, the blame’ll be on you, not them. Anyway, I keep stopping. The trouble is, I get to feeling sorry for them. I mean most girls are so dumb and all. After you neck them for a while, you can really watch them losing their brains. You take a girl when she really gets passionate, she just hasn’t any brains. I don’t know. They tell me to stop, so I stop. I always wish I hadn’t, after I take them home, but I keep doing it anyway.
Instead of going home, Holden decides to spend the night in a cheap hotel. On the way up to his room, the elevator operator offers to acquire for him the services of a prostitute. He agrees, and prepares for her arrival. He confesses to the reader that he is a virgin. He makes several excuses for this personal “deficiency,” claiming that there is always a flaw in the circumstances in which an opportunity arose. In a moment of revelation, Holden states that he always stops his advances if the girls asks him to. Unlike the other boys he knows, who always brag about how much they have “done it,” Holden cannot bring himself to question the girl’s words enough to push past them in order to actually make love. Holden is honest and genuine with the reader, yet once again he complains about the “phoniness” of others, in this case the girls who tell him to stop. He is not sure that they genuinely want him to stop or are in fact setting him up to take the blame should something happen. Although he often wishes that he could ignore their pleas for him to stop, Holden shows himself to be willing to take their requests at face value, rather than assume that their cries are “phony.”
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 15
While I was eating my eggs, these two nuns with suitcases and all—I guessed they were moving to another convent or something and were waiting for a train—came in and sat down next to me at the counter. They didn’t seem to know what the hell to do with their suitcases, so I gave them a hand. They were these very inexpensive-looking suitcases—the ones that aren’t genuine leather or anything. It isn’t important, I know, but I hate it when somebody has cheap suitcases. It sounds terrible to say it, but I can even get to hate somebody, just looking at them, if they have cheap suitcases with them....
Holden has left the hotel after the encounter with Maurice the elevator boy and Sunny the prostitute and gone to Grand Central Station as a place to hang out. He goes into a sandwich bar for some breakfast. While he is there, two nuns come in to eat as well. He notices their cheap suitcases and comments on them. He admits to a strong snobbishness when it comes to people’s luggage. He demands genuine leather...
(The entire section is 1703 words.)