Explain why JD Salinger included this quote in The Catcher in the Rye: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific...

Explain why JD Salinger included this quote in The Catcher in the Rye: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though." 

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Salinger chose to write his novel through the persona of a character named Holden Caulfield. Holden is only sixteen years old, and he is practically a dropout. He has already been expelled from three or four elitist private schools for not obeying the rules. He cuts classes when he doesn't feel like going, and he only does his homework assignments when he feels like doing them. In some of his schools he must have just stopped participating altogether.

Salinger has to make it seem plausible to the reader that an adolescent like Holden could write an autobiographical account like The Catcher in the Rye. Holden seems to have learned to write, not from schools and teachers, but from reading what he chose and writing his own thoughts in his own vernacular. Salinger shows that two of Holden's teachers, Mr. Spencer and Mr. Antolini, think highly of his writing ability. And Salinger has Holden discuss his tastes in reading mainly to show the reader that the boy has read a lot of good writers, such as Thomas Hardy and Isak Dinesen, and has obviously picked up some good ideas about style and self-expression. Holden is pretty much an autodidact--he is self-taught. This accounts for the discursiveness of his autobiographical narrative as well as its originality. We can see that what his English teachers like about his compositions is Holden's originality and sincerity.

Salinger had to keep reminding the reader that the novel was supposedly being written by a sixteen-year-old boy. Holden often makes mistakes in vocabulary and grammar that betray his youth and his academic remissness. All in all, the reader is pretty completely persuaded that The Catcher in the Rye was written by a bright schoolboy who was always getting into trouble because he couldn't help being a nonconformist. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson in his famous essay "Self-Reliance":

For non-conformity the world whips you with its displeasure. - See more at: http://www.enotes.com/topics/self-reliance/etext/self-reliance#sthash.jqYQjPmE.dpuf

rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

On the one hand, this quote appears rather early in the book, at a point when we are just getting to know Holden. The quote speaks to his sense of alienation and his desire to connect with like-minded, authentic people (and contempt for those who are "phony.") But on another level, it is difficult not to make the connection with Salinger himself. Few books have elicited the type of emotional reaction that The Catcher in the Rye has over the years. Many readers, especially younger readers, have strongly identified with Holden, and seen Salinger as an author who spoke uniquely to them. Yet few authors have been as reclusive and mysterious as Salinger, who very rarely gave interviews or made public appearances. So the quote, in a way, is eerily prescient in terms of what The Catcher and the Rye and its author have meant to readers. 

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The Catcher in the Rye

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