In The Catcher in the Rye, what is the significance of Holden's wishing that he could call up his favourite writers on the phone?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 3 of the novel, we see Holden settling down comfortably in his school dorm to read. He strikingly declares that:

I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot.


He goes on to reveal his enthusiasm for good books – one of the very few things that he seems to really like in the world. He lists among his favourite authors his older brother D.B., Ring Lardner, and even admits to enjoying classical literature, like the works of Thomas Hardy. He remarks that:


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. (chapter 3)

 


In other words, Holden appears to find the companionship in good books that he find so lacking in his real life. He feels assured that he would find the writers of his favourite books just as engaging and congenial as the stories they write. This could perhaps be taken as an instance of his inability to connect with people in his actual life, so that he takes refuge in imagining companionship elsewhere – much as he does in his frequent reminiscences over his dead brother Allie, for example. Books provide a kind of escape for him.


It is perhaps also typical of Holden’s life (or at least, of the way that he chooses to represent it) that he is not allowed to read in peace, but is interrupted by the unpleasant boy who rooms next door, Robert Ackley.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In chapter 3, Holden returns to his dorm room and settles in to read Isak Denisen's Out of Africa until he is interrupted by Robert Ackley. Before Holden begins to read, he comments on his favorite books and authors. Holden mentions that his favorite two authors are his brother D.B and Ring Lardner. Holden then comments on what he likes most about good books and says,

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. (Salinger 10)

Holden's comment regarding how he wishes he could call up his favorite authors reveals his loneliness and affinity for literature. Holden feels like the only people who will understand and listen to him are his little sister, dead brother, and the authors of his favorite novels. Holden's comment also reveals how he connects with stories and enjoys literature. Also, J.D. Salinger may be genuinely speaking through Holden and expressing his hope that someone reading the novel will connect with his characters and thoughts throughout the story.

 

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The Catcher in the Rye

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