Essential Quotes by Character: Holden Caulfield

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 2

...I shook my head. I shake my head quite a lot. “Boy!” I said. I also say “Boy!” quite a lot. Partly because I have a lousy vocabulary and partly because I act quite young for my age sometimes. I was sixteen then, and I’m seventeen now, and sometimes I act like I’m about thirteen. It’s really ironical, because I’m six foot two and a half and I have gray hair. I really do. The one side of my head—the right side—is full of millions of gray hairs. I’ve had them ever since I was a kid. And yet I still act sometimes like I was only about twelve. Everybody says that, especially my father. It’s partly true, too, but it isn’t all true. People always think something’s all true. I don’t give a damn, except that I get bored sometimes when people tell me to act my age. Sometimes I act a lot older than I am—I really do—but people never notice it. People never notice anything.

Holden Caulfield has been expelled from yet another school (his fourth) for failure to earn passing grades in four out of five classes. It is nearing Christmas break, and he will not be returning after the holidays. In preparation for his departure, Holden visits one of his favorite teachers, Mr. Spencer, his history teacher (one of the classes he failed). Mr. Spencer is old and is currently recovering from the grippe (the flu). Instead of a pleasant good-bye, Holden finds himself the recipient of the standard lecture from an adult to a teenage slacker. Holden is disappointed. Mr. Spencer questions him on the status of the news of his expulsion being delivered to his parents and their reaction to it. Holden knows that his parents will be irate when the letter from the headmaster arrives, so he has not yet told them about it. He does not want to explore this topic further with Mr. Spencer, someone whom he had once admired but has now found out to be a typically irritating adult.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 22

Old Phoebe said something then, but I couldn’t hear her. She had the side of her mouth right smack on the pillow, and I couldn’t hear her.

“What?” I said. “Take your mouth away. I can’t hear you with your mouth that way.”

“You don’t like anything that’s happening.”

It made me even more depressed when she said that.

“Yes I do. Yes I do. Sure I do. Don’t say that. Why the hell do you say that?"

“Because you don’t. You don’t like any schools. You don’t like a million things. You don’t.”

“I do! That’s where you’re wrong—that’s exactly where you’re wrong! Why the hell do you have to say that?” I said. Boy, was she depressing me.

“Because you don’t,” she said. “Name one thing.”

“One thing? One thing I like?” I said. “Okay.”

The trouble was, I couldn’t concentrate too hot. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate.

After almost twenty-four hours of life on his own in New York City, Holden decides to sneak back home for the sole purpose of seeing his little sister, Phoebe. She is overjoyed to find him sitting on her bed, but her feelings change when she learns that her brother has been kicked out of another school. Her disappointment in him turns to anger, and she refuses to speak to him. Holden, who adores his little sister, is seriously bothered by her rejection and tries to speak to her. He tells her how horrible he found Pencey Prep, and the meanness of the teachers and his fellow students. But he is unsuccessful at eliciting any kind of sympathy from Phoebe. She buries her face in her pillow and accurately points out that Holden does not like anything. Holden is shocked at her insight and denies it, though he can think of little to substantiate his denial. Depressed to begin with at the meaningless and emptiness of his life, he sinks further into depression at his sisters rejection.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 22...

(The entire section is 1737 words.)