In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, what does Holden mean when he says, "Mothers are all slightly insane"?  

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter eight of J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, Holden meets the mother of one of his classmates, Mrs. Morrow. He lies to her about who he is, but he does discuss her son with her. He doesn't lie about the things he says about Ernest Morrow, and he seems to throw things out about her son just to see how she will react to how her son acts at school. Mrs. Morrow, also throws out her concerns about her son to see what Holden will say. She and her husband are worried that Ernest doesn't mix well with other kids and that he's too sensitive. This proves to Holden that Ernest behaves differently with his parents than he does at school because Holden says, "That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a . . . toilet seat"(55). Holden's analysis goes further though, because if Ernest doesn't act much differently with his parents than with his folks, then she must be insane, right? The interesting thing is that after she says that her son is sensitive, Holden doesn't say what he really thinks, he just looks at Mrs. Morrow. Then he reasons that she may already know what a jerk her son is, or she's just making apologies for him by saying he's sensitive. Either way, this has got to drive mothers insane, too.


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The Catcher in the Rye

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