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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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What quotes indicate Holden's loneliness in The Catcher in the Rye?

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One quote that indicates that Holden is lonely in The Catcher in the Rye takes place when he says, "I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead." Holden also reveals his loneliness by thinking about his own funeral and saying, "I thought probably I'd get pneumonia and die. I started picturing millions of jerks coming to my funeral and all."

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During his conversation with Ackley in chapter 7 of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden keeps saying how lonely he feels:

I didn't answer him. All I did was, I got up and went over and looked out the window. I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I...

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almost wished I was dead.

Then, a few moments later, he repeats,

Boy, did I feel rotten. I felt so damn lonesome.

Holden dislikes Ackley and finds him irritating. His company has the effect of making Holden feel even more alone than simple solitude would have done. This, at least, is what Holden thinks at first. However, it is not long before he finds solitude so oppressive that he longs for anyone's company, including Ackley's:

It was even depressing out in the street. You couldn't even hear any cars any more. I got feeling so lonesome and rotten, I even felt like waking Ackley up.

Pencey Prep, with its hundreds of boys around the same age, still makes Holden feel alone. So, for that matter, does New York City, one of the most densely populated places on the planet. He finds the sound of laughter particularly isolating:

New York's terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed.

In New York, Holden is constantly trying to strike up conversations with people he does not know and failing to make connections with those he does, such as Carl Luce and Sally Hayes. At the end of the narrative, Holden finds that he feels just as alone as he ever did, and that he misses all the people about whom he has been telling the reader, however little he enjoyed being with them at the time. He concludes with this reflection:

About all I know is, I sort of miss everybody I told about. Even old Stradlater and Ackley, for instance. I think I even miss that goddam Maurice. It's funny. Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.

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Holden is at a difficult age and struggling with his transition into adulthood. He is also dealing with the trauma of losing his younger brother and feels isolated at Pencey Prep, where he considers everyone a phony. Holden's lack of maturity and social skills influence his emotional state and contribute to his self-destructive personality. At the beginning of the story, Holden attacks Stradlater after his date with Jane Gallagher. Holden is particularly close with Jane and fears that Stradlater made sexual advances toward her. Following the altercation with Stradlater in the bathroom, Holden says,

I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead.

Holden's loneliness influences him to entertain the idea of committing suicide. His comment also depicts his mental instability and need for social interaction.

After Holden leaves Pencey Prep, he wanders aimlessly throughout New York City and even solicits a prostitute. Holden does not engage in intercourse with Sunny and gets into a fight with her pimp named Maurice. Following his second altercation, Holden says,

I wasn't knocked out or anything, though, because I remember looking up from the floor and seeing them both go out the door and shut it. Then I stayed on the floor a fairly long time, sort of the way I did with Stradlater. Only, this time I thought I was dying. I really did. I thought I was drowning or something. The trouble was, I could hardly breathe.

Holden's comments and actions highlight his loneliness. He is in desperate need of a genuine friend but continues to interact with insensitive strangers, who only make him feel worse.

Holden then travels to Central Park in hopes of seeing the ducks. It is freezing outside, and Holden is left alone with his own thoughts. Once Holden reaches the pond, he sits down on a bench and says,

Finally I sat down on this bench, where it wasn't so goddam dark. Boy, I was still shivering like a bastard, and the back of my hair, even though I had my hunting hat on, was sort of full of little hunks of ice. That worried me. I thought probably I'd get pneumonia and die. I started picturing millions of jerks coming to my funeral and all.

Holden proceeds to contemplate his own funeral and thinks about how everyone would react to his death. His dark, grim thoughts are a result of his loneliness and feelings of desperation. The reader understands that Holden needs to have a long, meaningful conversation with Jane, but he continually avoids calling her.

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There are plenty of examples you could look at that show Holden is a character who finds it very hard to connect with people and is an isolated individual. Often, these can be quite subtle. Consider this example from the first chapter:

Anyway, it was the Saturday of the football game... I remember around three o'clock that afternoon I was standing way the hell up on top of Thomsen Hill... You could see the whole field from there, and you could see the two teams bashing each other all over the place... You could hear them all yelling.

Consider the significance of this image. What is important to note is that Holden is a figure who is by himself and not able to participate in the action of everybody else. He is shown to be aloof and alone and profoundly isolated.

You might also like to think of the way in Chapter Nine that he does try and reach out to people because of his loneliness, but that he is prevented from doing so because of his hesitation. Consider the following example:

The first thing I did when I got off at Penn Station, I went into this phone booth. I felt like giving somebody a buzz but as soon as I was inside, I couldn't think of anybody to call up. My brother D.B. was in Hollywood. My kid sister Phoebe was out. Then I thought of giving Jane Gallagher's mother a buzz. Then I thought of calling this girl Sally Hayes. I thought of calling Carl Luce. So I ended up not calling anybody. I came out of the booth, after about twenty minutes or so.

The way in which Holden's judgemental view of others combined with other factors prevents him from reaching out and calling somebody for help is a key contributing factor to his loneliness, although it is clear that he is in desperate need of somebody to speak to.

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