The Catcher in the Rye Questions and Answers
by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
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What are the best quotes about family in The Catcher in the Rye?

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“But my parents, especially my mother, she has ears like a g***m bloodhound. So I took it very, very easy when I went past their door. I even held my breath, for God's sake. You can hit my father over the head with a chair and he won't wake up, but my mother, all you have to do to my mother is cough somewhere in Siberia and she'll hear you. She's nervous as h***. Half the time she's up all night smoking cigarettes.”

Holden Caulfield offers this account of his parents as a way of projecting his own angst and dissatisfaction with his own life. His father’s propensity to sleep and be completely undisturbed represents the father’s negligence to mentor and love Caulfield, while his mother’s nervousness and apparent insomnia represents Caulfield’s own jaded perspective of society and the world around him.

“The show wasn't as bad as some I've seen. It was on the crappy side, though. It was about five hundred thousand years in the life of this one old couple. It starts out when they're young and all, and the girl's parents don't want her to marry the boy, but she marries him anyway. Then they keep getting older and older. The husband goes to war, and the wife has this brother that's a drunkard. I couldn't get very interested. I mean I didn't care too much when anybody in the family died or anything. They were all just a bunch of actors.”

Caulfield’s blunt personal review of a play powerfully pictures his perspective on family. “They were all just a bunch of actors” represents his feelings toward his own family—they are so removed from his own sense of person and identity that at best they are simply faking and acting out a false reality. He cannot get emotionally invested in the “pretend” family in the play because he has no basis for emotional investment in a “real” family. The goings on of his own family, whether it is marriage, disease, or death, feel as distant and vain as a fleeting and otherwise meaningless stage play.

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