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Sunday, September 24, 2017

Holden Caulfield's Implicature


Apart from literary interest, J. D. Salinger's novel, "The Catcher in the Rye," can also be justified on the basis of its linguistic significance. 

"The Catcher in the Rye" has been compared by many critics with 'The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn' on various counts. 

Just as 'Huckleberry' is not only as a great work of literary art, but also a valuable study in 1884 dialect. 

In coming decades, The Catcher in the Rye will be studied in all probability not only as a literary work but also as an example of teenage vernacular in the 1950s.

As such, the novel is a significant historical linguistic record of a type of speech rarely made available in permanent form. 

Its linguistic importance is bound to increase as the typical speech it records would become less current. 

Most critics who looked at The Catcher in the Rye at the time of its publication thought that its language was a true and authentic rendering of teenage colloquial speech.

Various aspects of its language were also discussed in the reviews published in prominent American publications like the Chicago Sunday Tribune, the London Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times, the New Yorker and Newsweek. 

Almost all reviewers have specifically mentioned the authenticity of the book's language. 

Of these scores of reviews, only the reviewers from the Catholic World and the Christian Science Monitor denied the authenticity of the book's language, but both of these are religious journals which refused to believe that the 'obscenity' was realistic.

The language of Holden Caulfield, the book's sixteen-year-old narrator, struck the ear of the contemporary reader as an accurate rendering of the informal speech of an intelligent, educated, North-eastern American adolescent. 

In addition to commenting on its authenticity, critics have often remarked uneasily the 'daring,' 'obscene,' 'blasphemous' features of Holden's language.

Another commonly noted feature of the book's language has been its comic effect or implicature.

And yet there has never been an extensive investigation of the language itself. 

That is what this essay proposes to do. 

Even though Holden's language is authentic teenage speech, recording it was certainly not the major intention of Salinger.

He was faced with the artistic task of creating an individual character, not with the linguistic task of reproducing the exact speech of teenagers in general.

Yet Holden had to speak a recognizable teenage language, and at the same time had to be identifiable as an individual. 

This difficult task Salinger achieved by giving Holden an extremely trite and typical teenage speech, overlaid with strong personal idiosyncrasies.

There are two major speech habits which are Holden's own, which are endlessly repeated throughout the book, and which are, nevertheless, typical enough of teenage speech so that Holden can be both typical and individual in his use of them. 

It is certainly common for teenagers to end thoughts with a loosely dangling 

'and all'

just as it is common for them to add an insistent 'I really did,' 'It really was.'

But Holden uses these phrases to such an overpowering degree that they become a clear part of the flavor of the book.

They become, more, a part of Holden himself, and actually help to characterize him. 


'AND all' 

and its twins, 

'OR something,' 

'OR anything'

serve no real, consistent linguistic function. 

They simply give a sense of looseness of expression and looseness of thought. 

Often they signify that Holden knows there is more that could be said about the issue at hand, but he is not going to bother going into it (he'll leave it at the level of the implicature):

How my parents were occupied AND ALL before they had me
they're nice AND ALL. I'm not going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography or anything
..... splendid' and clear-thinking and all.

But just as often the use of such expressions is purely arbitrary, with no discernible meaning or implicature

He's my brother AND ALL. 
was in the Revolutionary War AND ALL

It was December AND ALL
no gloves OR ANYTHING 
right in the pocket AND ALL

This habit is indicative of Holden's tendency to generalize, to find the all in the one. 

According to Donald Barr:

"Salinger has an ear not only for idiosyncrasies of diction and syntax, but for mental processes."

Holden Caulfield's phrase is:


She looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around in her blue coat -- AND ALL.

as if each experience wore a halo. 

His fallacy is ab uno disce omnes.

He abstracts and generalizes wildly.

Heiserman and Miller, in the Western Humanities Review, comment specifically upon Holden's second most obvious idiosyncrasy: 

"In a phony world Holden feels compelled to reinforce his sincerity and Griceian truthfulness and candour constantly with

"It really is" or 

"It really did.' 

S. N. Behrman, in The New Yorker, finds a double function of these 'perpetual insistences of Holden's.' 

Behrman thinks they 'reveal his age, even when he is thinking much older,' and, more important, 'he is so aware of the danger of slipping into phoniness himself that he has to repeat over and over 

"I really mean it,' 

"It really does. "

Holden uses this idiosyncrasy of insistence almost every time that he makes an affirmation. 

Allied to Holden's habit of insistence is his 

'if you want to know the truth. 

One is able to find characterization in this habit too. 

Holden uses this phrase only after affirmations, just as he uses 

'It really does'

but usually after the personal ones, where he is consciously being frank or candid:

-- I have no wind, if you want to know the truth.
-- I don't even think that bastard had a handkerchief, if you want to know the truth.
-- I'm a pacifist, if you want to know the truth.
-- She had quite a lot of sex appeal, too, if you really want to know.
-- I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth.

These personal idiosyncrasies of Holden's speech are in keeping with general teen-age language. 

Yet they are so much a part of Holden and of the flavour of the book that they are much of what makes Holden to be Holden. 

They are the most memorable feature of the book's language. 

Although always in character, the rest of Holden's speech is more typical than individual. T

he special quality of this language comes from its triteness, its lack of distinctive qualities.

Holden's informal, school-boy vernacular is particularly typical in its 'vulgarity' and 'obscenity.' 

No one familiar with prep-school speech could seriously contend that Salinger over-played his hand in this respect. 

On the contrary, Holden's restraints help to characterize him as a sensitive youth who avoids the most strongly forbidden terms, and who never uses vulgarity in a self-conscious or phony way to help him be 'one of the boys.' 

"Fuck," for example, is never used as a part of Holden's speech. 

The word appears in the novel four times, but only when Holden disapprovingly discusses its wide appearance on walls. 

The Divine name is used habitually by Holden only in the comparatively weak 

"for God's sake,"

The stronger and usually more offense 

"for Chrissake"
"Jesus Christ"
are used habitually by Ackley and Stradlater; but Holden uses them only when he feels the need for a strong expression. 

He almost never uses "for Chrissake" in an unemotional situation. 

"Goddam" is Holden's favorite adjective. 

This word is used with no relationship to its original meaning, or to Holden's attitude toward the word to which it is attached. 

It simply expresses an emotional feeling toward the object: either favorable, as in 'goddam hunting cap'; or unfavorable, as in 'ya goddam moron'; or indifferent, as in 'coming in the goddam windows.' 

Damm is used interchangeably with goddam.

No differentiation in its meaning is detectable.

Other crude words are also often used in Holden's vocabulary. 

"Ass" keeps a fairly restricted meaning as a part of the human anatomy, but it is used in a variety of ways. 

It can refer simply to that specific part of the body ('I moved my ass a little'), or be a part of a trite expression ('freezing my ass off'; 'in a half-assed way'), or be an expletive ('Game, my ass.'). 

"Hell" is perhaps the most versatile word in Holden's entire vocabulary.

"Hell" serves most of the meanings and constructions which Mencken lists in his American Speech American Speech article on 'American Profanity'. 

So far is Holden's use of "hell" from its original meaning that he can use the sentence 

'We had a helluva time' 

to mean that he and Phoebe had a decidedly pleasant time downtown shopping for shoes. 

The most common function of "hell" 

is as the second part of a simile, in which a thing can be either 'hot as hell' or, strangely, 

"cold as hell"

"Sad as hell' or 'playful as hell'; 'old as hell' or 'pretty as hell.' 

Like all of these words, "hell" has no close relationship to its original meaning.

Both bastard and sonuvabitch have also drastically changed in meaning. 

They no longer, of course, in Holden's vocabulary, have any connection with the accidents of birth. 

Unless used in a trite simile, bastard is a strong word, reserved for things and people Holden particularly dislikes, especially 'phonies.' 

Sonuvabitch has an even stronger meaning to Holden,

He uses it only in the deepest anger. 

When, for example, Holden is furious with Stradlater over his treatment of Jane Gallagher, Holden repeats again and again that he 'kept calling him a moron sonuvabitch' .

The use of crude language in The Catcher in the Rye increases, as we should expect, when Holden is reporting schoolboy dialogue. 

When he is directly addressing the reader, Holden's use of such language drops off almost entirely. 

There is also an increase in this language when any of the characters are excited or angry. 

Thus, when Holden is apprehensive over Stradlater's treatment of Jane, his goddams increase suddenly to seven on a single page.

Holden's speech is also typical in his use of slang. 

One can catalogue over a hundred slang terms used by Holden, and every one of these is in widespread use. 

Although Holden's slang is rich and colourful, it, of course, being slang, often fails at precise communication. 

Thus, Holden's "crap" is used in seven different ways. 

It can mean foolishness, as 'all that David Copperfield kind of crap,' or messy matter, as 'I spilled some crap all over my gray flannel,' or merely miscellaneous matter, as 'I was putting on my galoshes and crap.' 

It can also carry its basic meaning, animal excreta, as 

There didn't look like there was anything in the park except dog crap,' and it can be used as an adjective meaning anything generally unfavorable, as 'The show was on the crappy side.' 

Holden uses the phrases to be a lot of crap and to shoot the crap and to chuck the crap all to mean 'to be untrue,' but he can also use to shoot the crap to mean simply 'to chat,' with no connotation of untruth, as in 'I certainly wouldn't have minded shooting the crap with old Phoebe for a while.'

Similarly Holden's slang use of "crazy" is both trite and imprecise. 

'That drives me crazy' 

means that he violently dislikes something.

Yet 'to be crazy about' something means just the opposite. 

In the same way, to be 'killed' by something can mean that he was emotionally affected either favorably ('That story just about killed me.') or unfavorably ('Then she turned her back on me again. It nearly killed me.'). 

This use of "killed" is one of Holden's favorite slang expressions. 

Heiserman and Miller are, incidentally, certainly incorrect when they conclude: 

"Holden always lets us know when he has insight into the absurdity of the endlessly absurd situations which make up the life of a sixteen-year-old by exclaiming, "It killed me." 

Holden often uses this expression with no connection to the absurd; he even uses it for his beloved Phoebe. The expression simply indicates a high degree of emotion-any kind. 

It is hazardous to conclude that any of Holden's slang has a precise and consistent meaning or function. 

These same critics fall into the same error when they conclude that Holden's use of the adjective "old" serves as 'a term of endearment'. 

Holden appends this word to almost every character, real or fictional, mentioned in the novel, from the hated 'old Maurice' to 'old Peter Lorre,' to 'old Phoebe,' and even 'old Jesus.' 

The only pattern that can be discovered in Holden's use of this term is that he usually uses it only after he has previously mentioned the character; he then feels free to append the familiar old. 

All we can conclude from Holden's slang is that it is typical teenage slang: versatile yet narrow, expressive yet unimaginative, imprecise, often crude, and always trite.

Holden has many favorite slang expressions which he overuses. In one place, he admits:

'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.

But if Holden's slang shows the typically 'lousy vocabulary' of even the educated teen-ager, this failing becomes even more obvious when we narrow our view to Holden's choice of adjectives and adverbs. 

The choice is indeed narrow, with a constant repetition of a few favorite words: 


-all used, as is the habit of teen-age vernacular, with little regard to specific meaning. 

Thus, most of the nouns which are called 'stupid' could not in any logical framework be called 'ignorant,' and, as we have seen, old before a proper noun has nothing to do with age.

Another respect in which Holden was correct in accusing himself of having a 'lousy vocabulary' is discovered in the ease with which he falls into trite figures of speech. 

We have already seen that Holden's most common simile is the worn and meaningless 'as hell'.

But his often-repeated 'like a madman' and 'like a bastard' are just about as unrelated to a literal meaning and are easily as unimaginative. 

Even Holden's non-habitual figures of speech are usually trite: 

'sharp as a tack'; 'hot as a firecracker'; 'laughed like a hyena'; 'I know old Jane like a book'; 'drove off like a bat out of hell'; 'I began to feel like a horse's ass'; 'blind as a bat'; 'I know Central Park like the back of my hand.'

Repetitious and trite as Holden's vocabulary may be, it can, nevertheless, become highly effective. 

For example, when Holden piles one trite adjective upon another, a strong power of invective is often the result:

He was a goddam stupid moron.
Get your dirty stinking moron knees off my chest.
You're a dirty stupid sonuvabitch of a moron.

And his limited vocabulary can also be used for good comic effect. 

Holden's constant repetition of identical expressions in countless widely different situations is often hilariously funny.

But all of the humor in Holden's vocabulary does not come from its un imaginative quality. 

Quite the contrary, some of his figures of speech and implicatures are entirely original.

And these are inspired, dramatically effective, and terribly funny. 

As always, Salinger's Holden is basically typical, with a strong overlay of the individual:

He started handling my exam paper like it was a turd or something.

He put my goddam paper down then and looked at me like he'd just beaten the hell out of me in ping-pong or something.

That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat.

Old Marty was like dragging the Statue of Liberty around the floor.

Another aspect in which Holden's language is typical is that it shows the general characteristic of adaptability-apparently strengthened by his teen-age lack of restraint. 

It is very easy for Holden to turn nouns into adjectives, with the simple addition of a -y: 

'perverry,' 'Christmasy,' 'vomity- looking,' 'whory-looking,' 'hoodlumy-looking,' 'show-offy,' 'flitty-looking,' 'dumpy-looking,' 'pimpy,' 'snobby,' 'fisty.' 

Like all of English, Holden's language shows a versatile combining ability: 

'They gave Sally this little blue butt-twitcher of a dress to wear' and 'That magazine was some little cheerer upper'. 

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the adaptability of Holden's language is his ability to use nouns as adverbs: 

'She sings it very Dixieland and whorehouse, and it doesn't sound at all mushy'.

As we have seen, Holden shares, in general, the trite repetitive vocabulary which is the typical lot of his age group. 

But as there are exceptions in his figures of speech, so are there exceptions in his vocabulary itself, in his word stock. 

An intelligent, well-read ('I'm quite illiterate, but I read a lot'), and educated boy, Holden possesses, and can use when he wants to, many words which are many a cut above Basic English, including 'ostracized,' 'exhibitionist,' 'unscrupulous, 'conversationalist,' 'psychic,' 'bourgeois.' 

Often Holden seems to choose his words consciously, in an effort to communicate to his adult reader clearly and properly, as in such terms as 'lose my virginity,' 'relieve himself,' 'an alcoholic'; for upon occasion, he also uses the more vulgar terms 'to give someone the time,' 'to take a leak,' 'booze hound.' 

Much of the humour arises, in fact, from Holden's habit of writing on more than one level at the same time. 

Thus, we have such phrases as 

'They give guys the ax quite frequently at Pency' and 

'It has a very good academic rating, Pency'. 

Both sentences show a colloquial idiom with an overlay of consciously selected words.

Such a conscious choice of words seems to indicate that Salinger, in his attempt to create a realistic character in Holden, wanted to make him aware of his speech, as, indeed, a real teen-ager would be when communicating to the outside world. 

Another piece of evidence that Holden is conscious of his speech and, more, realizes a difficulty in communication, is found in his habit of direct repetition: 

"She likes me a lot. I mean she's quite fond of me."


"SShe can be very snotty sometimes. She can be quite snotty."

Sometimes the repetition is exact: 

"He was a very nervous guy-I mean he was a very nervous guy' , and 'I sort of missed them. I mean I sort of missed them.' 

Sometimes Holden stops specifically to interpret slang terms, as when he wants to communicate the fact that Allie liked Phoebe: 

'She killed Allie, too. I mean he liked her, too'.

There is still more direct evidence that Holden is conscious of his speech. 

Many of his comments to the reader are concerned with language. 

He is aware, for example, of the 'phony' quality of many words and phrases, such as 'grand,' 'prince,' 'traveling incognito,' 'little girls' room,' 'licorice stick,' and 'angels.' 

Holden is also conscious, of course, of the existence of 'taboo words.' 

He makes a point of mentioning that the girl from Seattle repeatedly asked him to 'watch your language, if you don't mind', and that his mother told Phoebe not to say 'lousy'. 

When the prostitute says 'Like fun you are,' Holden comments:

It was a funny thing to say. 

It sounded like a real kid. 

You'd think a prostitute and all would say 'Like hell you are' or 'Cut the crap' instead of 'Like fun you are.'

In grammar, too, as in vocabulary, Holden possesses certain self-consciousness. 

It is, of course, impossible to imagine a student getting through today's schools without self-consciousness with regard to grammar rules.

Holden is, in fact, not only aware of the existence of 'grammatical errors,' but knows the social taboos that accompany them. 

He is disturbed by a school- mate who is ashamed of his parents' grammar, and he reports that his former teacher, Mr. Antolini, warned him about picking up 'just enough education to hate people who say, "It's a secret between he and I".

Holden is a typical enough teen-ager to violate (or as Grice would prefer, flout) the grammar rules, even though he knows of their social importance. 

His most common rule violation is the misuse of lie and lay, but he also is careless about relative pronouns ('about a traffic cop that falls in love'), the double negative ('I hardly didn't even know I was doing it'), the perfect tenses ('I'd woke him up'), extra words ('like as if all you ever did at Pency was play polo all the time'), pronoun number ('it's pretty disgusting to watch somebody picking their nose'), and pronoun position ('I and this friend of mine, Mal Brossard'). 

More remarkable, however, than the instances of grammar rule violations is Holden's relative 'correctness.' 

Holden is always intelligible, and is even 'correct' in many usually difficult constructions. 

Grammatically speaking, Holden's language seems to point up the fact that English is the only subject in which he was not failing. 

It is interesting to note how much more 'correct' Holden's speech is than that of Huck Finn. 

But then Holden is educated, and since the time of Huck there had been sixty-seven years of authoritarian schoolmarms working on the likes of Holden. 

He has, in fact, been over taught, so that he uses many 'hyper-correct' forms:

I used to play tennis with he and Mrs. Antolini quite frequently.
She'd give Allie or I a push.
I and Allie used to take her to the park with us.
I think I probably woke he and his wife up.

Now that we have examined several aspects of Holden's vocabulary and grammar, it would be well to look at a few examples of how he puts these elements together into sentences. 

The structure of Holden's sentences indicates that Salinger thinks of the book more in terms of spoken speech than written speech. 

Holden's faulty structure is quite common and typical in vocal expression.

I doubt if a student who is 'good in English' would ever create such sentence structure in writing. 

A student who showed the self-consciousness of Holden would not write so many fragments, such afterthoughts 

-- e.g., 'It has a very good academic rating, Pency' , or such repetitions e.g., 'Where I lived at Pency, I lived in the Ossenburger Memorial Wing of the new dorms'.

There are other indications that Holden's speech is vocal. 

In many places, Salinger mildly imitates spoken speech. 

Sentences such as 'You could tell old Spencer'd got a big bang out of buying it' and 'I'd've killed him' are repeated throughout the book. 

Yet it is impossible to imagine Holden taking pen in hand and actually writing 'Spencer'd' or 'I'd've.' 

Sometimes, too, emphasized words, or even parts of words, are italicized, as in 'Now shut up, Holden. God damn it-I'm warning ya'. 

This is often done with good effect, imitating quite perfectly the rhythms of speech, as in the typical:

I practically sat down on her lap, as a matter of fact. 

Then she really started to cry, and the next thing I knew, I was kissing her all over-anywhere-her eyes, her nose, her forehead, her eyebrows and all, her ears-her whole face except her mouth AND ALL.

The language of The Catcher in the Rye is, as we have seen, an authentic artistic rendering of a type of informal, colloquial, teen-age spoken speech. 

It is strongly typical and trite, yet often somewhat individual; it is crude and slangy and imprecise, imitative yet occasionally imaginative, and affected toward standardization by the strong efforts of schools. 

But authentic and interesting as this language may be, it must be remembered that it exists, in The Catcher in the Rye, as only one part of an artistic achievement. 

The language was not written for itself, but as a part of a greater whole. 

Like the great Twain work with which it is often compared, a study of The Catcher min the Rye repays both the linguist and the literary critic; for as one critic has said, 'In them, 1884 and 1951 speak to us in the idiom and accent of two youthful travelers who have earned their passports to literary immortality."

Read more:

Holden Caulfield's Implicature


If an adult has every gotten on your case about uptalk, vocal fry, or saying “like” all the time, you get the point of Catcher in the Rye—you and Holden might say different things in different ways, but you both speak the same language: teenager.

Holden’s style (which is the novel’s style) is colloquial and slangy, sounding a lot more like a real seventeen-year-old talking straight to you than an accomplished adult author.
Some examples?

He says things like

"You'd have liked [Allie]" to give the illusion that he’s right there talking at you. He uses italics to make the words read with the same emphasis as spoken word ("He's my brother and all").

You'll hear him describe places and people all the time as "corny" or "phony."

He'll tell us he's never waited anywhere so long in his "goddamn life. [He] swear[s]" (24. 97), or that he's sweating "like a bastard" (24.100).
The Catcher in the Rye, like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn before it, is one of few books to feature this language in the narration itself, not just in dialogue.

At the time, this was both unusual and important—not just as a new literary style, but also as a way to study the vernacular of a particular time period.

So, while the language doesn't seem all that offensive to us (PG, maybe), it raised a few more eyebrows in 1951.

Holden Caulfield's Implicature


Chapter 1 p. 3-8
After setting the tone of the story he is going to write, Holden talks about Pencey Prep., his brother, and how he is going to go visit a former teacher after being kicked out of school.
“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.” (3)
This is a strong example of characterization. Holden is making clear the kind of book he is writing, he’s creating a narrative voice, and he’s challenging writing standards. Already, his rebellious nature is clear.
Chapter 2 p. 9-19
Holden talks to a very agitated old Spencer, who wants to discuss Holden’s future, but Holden’s reluctance forces old Spencer to show him a particularly bad History essay, prompting Holden to make up a reason to leave due to irritation.
“It was pretty depressing, old Spencer had on this very sad, ratty old bathrobe that he was probably born in or something. I don’t much like to see old guys in their pajamas and bathrobes anyway. Their bumpy old chests are always showing. And their legs.” (10)
First, this quote exemplifies Holden’s brutal honesty, cementing the fact that no one is safe, not even the old or frail. Also, it shows just how cruel Holden can be, judging people relentlessly for things they can’t help. Furthermore, the imagery is good, contrasting the roguish and young Holden to the steady “old Spencer.” Finally, it further creates the impression of an unreliable narrator, as Holden is easily distracted, and goes into detailed descriptions on a whim.
Chapter 3 p. 19-31
We learn more about Holden’s sense of humor and classmates as he attempts to read his book alone, but the bothersome Ackley interrupts him, sparking reluctant conversation which comes to involve Holden’s roommate Stradlater.
“It was a very good book. I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.” (21)
This is the perfect example of Holden’s mindset. Everything he says is a contradiction as he jumps from one train of thought to another, completely obliterating his ideas. Everything is a chaotic mess which Holden doesn’t come close to understanding, and he doesn’t pretend to either. Holden merely says what he thinks.

Chapter 4 p. 31-30
Ackley leaves, and Holden talks to Stradlater and about his character while he prepares for a date with an old friend of Holden, whom Holden can’t stop thinking about.
“‘She’s a dancer,’ I said. ‘Ballet and all. She used to practice about two hours every day, right in the middle of the hottest weather and all. She was worried that it might make her legs lousy-all thick and all. I used to play checkers with her all the time.’”
The chapter essentially boils down to this. For the first time in the book, Holden stops being apathetic, and shows that he cares about something. He reveals a sincere detail about a girl he knew. Holden also talks about being nervous that Stradlater is seeing Jane, and up until this point, Holden has not been anything but c***y and rude. It’s a clearly revealing moment which will drive the plot.
Chapter 5 p. 40-45
Holden talks about the food at Pencey, an uneventful time at the movies with Ackley, and reveals the story of his dead brother and emotional issues.
“He’s dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in maine.”
This quote is an extremely revealing remark, and the ultimate point of the chapter. It also explains Holden’s mental state, and backs his character. He is so nonchalant about something so important.

Chapter 6 p. 45-52
Holden, fearing Stradlater behaved badly toward Jane, tries to seriously injure Stradlater, but ends up incapacitated; so Holden leaves to see Ackley, disgruntled.
“‘Coupla minutes,’he said. ‘Who the hell signs out for nine-thirty on a Saturday night?’ God, how I hated him.”
This quote exemplifies how Holden changes his mind to suit a point of rebellion. No matter what his previous viewpoint was, Holden abandons it quickly. Before, Holden was a fan of Stradlater, defending him. Granted, he has a reason to be mad at Stradlater.
Chapter 7 p. 52-59
Holden has some sarcastic banter with Ackley in the bed of Ackley’s roommate in an attempt to distract himself from Stradlater’s date with Jane, but when this fails, Holden makes the decision to leave Pencey and head to New York on a train.
“I was sort of crying. I don’t know why. I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, “Sleep tight, ya morons!”
The whole point of the chapter is revealed in this quote. Specifically, in the first sentence. By admitting that he was crying, Holden finally reveals that there is some emotional side to him, even though he tries his hardest to bury it. However, sticking true to his character, Holden merely brushes it off and distracts himself.
Chapter 8 p. 59-66
Holden, still covered in blood, boards a train to New York where he meets the mother of Pencey Prep student Ernest Morrow, whom Holden likes, but lies to for the duration of their talk as to the nature of Ernest, and his own reason for being on the train.
“‘No, everybody’s fine at home,’ I said. ‘It’s me. I have to have this operation’
‘Oh! I’m so sorry,’ she said. She really was, too. I was right away sorry I’d said it, but it was too late.”
This serves an important purpose in the characterization of Holden. It makes clear that Holden does feel guilt about some of his actions, though not prolonged. It also shows that Holden doesn’t really hate everyone, and there are people he can genuinely communicate with even when he’s…lying. This is basically a contradiction, but so is Holden.
Chapter 9 p. 66-74
A sexually frustrated Holden reminisces about his perversions at a seedy, cheap hotel, then proceeds to call a semi-prostitute to no avail.
“I was going to tell whoever answered the phone that I was her uncle. I was going to say her aunt had just got killed in a car accident and I had to speak to her immediately. It would’ve worked, too. The only reason I didn’t do it was because I wasn’t in the mood.”
This quote reveals more with what is not said. Essentially, it proves that Holden has SOME sense of social tact. He obviously cares what people think, he just covers it up by saying things like “he isn’t in the mood.” He cares more than he wants to admit, and he shocks us with terrible and occasionally humorous lies because it masks an injured interior.
Chapter 10 p. 74-85
Holden heads to a night club, fails to order alcohol due to his age, and dances with three middle aged, movie star obsessed women whom he calls ugly and stupid after they make fun of his age.
“I was about half in love with her by the time we sat down. That’s he thing about girls. Every time they do something pretty, even if they’re not much to look at, or even if they’re sort of stupid, you fall half in love with them, and then you never know where the hell you are.”
The point of the whole chapter can be boiled down to this. Holden is clearly reaching out for Jane by seeing other girls. Though seemingly a cynic, Holden is clearly in love with the idea of love.
Chapter 11 p. 85-90
Holden becomes tender and protective for a moment as he discusses memories of Jane and her abusive childhood, and then Holden heads to a nightclub his brother D.B. used to go to.
“She was sort of muckle-mouthed. I mean when she was talking and she got excited about something, her mouth sort of went in about fifty different directions, her lips and all.”
Throughout the whole book, the author hasn’t put a single description as detailed as this. The choice worked really well, and was strongly indicative of Holden’s feelings.
Chapter 12 p. 90-98
Holden sees an old friend of D.B.’s at a club, becomes annoyed by her and her date, and then leaves, even more annoyed.
“After I’d told her I had to meet somebody, I didn’t have any goddamn choice except to leave. I couldn’t even stick around to hear Ernie play something halfway decent.”
This is a revealing remark as to Holden’s character, and how much he actually cares. He pretends to be, and wants to be, completely separate from social norms, but secretly adheres to them. Treating it nonchalantly, he covers it well.
Chapter 13 p. 98-110
A prostitute comes to Holden’s hotel room, but Holden doesn’t desire sex, so they have a tense conversation until the prostitute leaves.
“It was funny. It made me feel sort of sad when I hung it up. I thought of her going in a store and buying it, and nobody in the store knowing she was a prostitute and all.”
This is an example of how Holden finds faults everywhere but internally. He fails to realize that he is the sad one, not her. He is a failure in school, partly drunk in a big city, and he has a prostitute in his room. Yet SHE makes him sad. Furthermore, it sorts of shows how sweet Holden can be on occasion. He steps into the shoes of the prostitute, and says something which isn’t cold for a change.
Chapter 14 p. 110-117
Holden decides not to pay the money a pimp is asking for, saying that he was tricked, so the pimp beats up Holden, leaving him bloodied and thinking of suicide.
“I felt like jumping out the window. I probably would’ve done it, too, if I’d been sure somebody’d cover me up as soon as I landed. I didn’t want a bunch of stupid rubbernecks looking at me when I was all gory.”
Holden can’t admit that that he’s too scared to kill himself. It’s not really about not being seen, Holden just can’t admit fear. In all reality, the only reason he isn’t jumping out the window is because he isn’t sure what’s waiting will be any better. He wants to be edgy and important and apathetic, but he’s just a scared kid trying to work up the nerve to kill himself.

Chapter 15 p. 117-126
Holden wakes up, leaves the hotel, arranges a date with Sally Hayes, talks about his parents, meets two nuns in a restaurant, donates to their collection, strikes up a literary conversation with one of the, inquires as to why they are there, and then the nuns leave.
“It’s just like those suitcases I was telling you about, in a way. All I’m saying is that it’s no good for a nice conversation. That’s all I’m saying.”
This evoked a personal response more towards the writer than Holden. He is clearly stressing a metaphor here, and asking you to think deeply. By going back to the suitcases, he reveals their importance. Furthermore, it summarizes the point of the chapter, which has to do with shallowness. Everything Holden says is sort of proverbial in a round about way, and this suitcase example is really a look into the nature of human instinct and feelings of inferiority.
Chapter 16 p. 126-136
Holden, after walking around Broadway and buying theatre tickets for Sally, tries to call Jane, then goes to the park to ask about Phoebe, eventually deciding to head The Museum of Natural History.
“You could tell, for one thing, that they never went anywhere for lunch.”
No Holden, you cannot tell that. You want to be master of the universe, but there are things you simply can’t know. You create a million ideal universes in your head, often contradicting your own contradictions. You think you could tell. That’s all.
Chapter 17 p. 136-149
Holden takes Sally to a skating rink, asks her to run away with him in a strange fit of “passion”, then insults her, so she leaves.
“I stuck around for a while, apologizing and trying to get her to excuse me, but she wouldn’t.”
Once again the problem returns to accountability. Holden, after admitting fault, quickly takes it back and passes the blame to his date. He just can’t accept responsibility, or anything even close, but he is acutely aware of the inherent guilt that comes with his actions. The only reason he apologizes is to make himself feel better, not those he has wronged.

Chapter 18 p.149-156
Holden arranges a late night drink with an old schoolmate, sees a movie he finds putrid, describes it in detail, talks about how much he would hate being in the army, and characterizes D.B. a bit more.
“My brother D.B. was in the Army for four goddamn years. He was in the war, too- he landed on D-Day and all- but I really think he hated the Army worse than the war.”
I chose to note this quote because it is stylistically seamless. This is clearly the main point of the chapter, the characterization of Holden’s family, particularly D.B. Salinger slips it into the middle of the chapter in a stroke of genius, so the whole thing doesn’t come off as a piece of blatant exposition of character building. Furthermore, he creates a springboard to talk about Holden’s beliefs on war, and further characterize him with such a complex issue.
Chapter 19 p.157-165
Holden, in an extremely lonely state, tries to talk to Luce about his sex life and relationships, but Luce becomes uncomfortable and points out Holden’s immaturity, eventually leaving the bar.
“‘Have just one more drink,’ I told him. ‘please. I’m lonesome as hell. No kidding’”
The is the first time in the book that Holden has verbalized what he is truly feeling. The whole chapter has been about what a terrible pretentious person Luce is, and Holden just wants him to stay a little bit longer. Furthermore, it shows why Holden is bitter toward everyone, when Luce simply leaves the bar. It’s symbolic of all his interactions.
Chapter 20 p.165-173
Holden gets extremely intoxicated, calls Sally, thinks about calling Jane, has a drunken conversation with a club piano player and a coat check worker, tries to go see ducks in a pond at central park in the early morning, and then decides to go see his sister
My content for this chapter is the tone which switches between drunk dialogue and sophisticated humor.
Salinger alternates between a very drunk Holden and a normal narrator Holden in this chapter, and the strategy works seamlessly. You don’t really have a gauge of just how drunk Holden is until his phone call with Sally, and the reveal is both slightly humorous and very, very sad. His normal narration persists, and you can tell that Holden justs wants to be an adult, but his child like antics, terrible decisions, and overall attitude stand his way. One of the most intense scenes came when Holden pointed out that he was crying for no reason. It’s clearly a big deal, but Holden is so self diluted he can’t even admit his own defects.
Chapter 21 p.173-183
Holden heads to his house, goes into Phoebe’s room, reads her journal, wakes her, then has a conversation with her, in which Phoebe realizes that Holden was kicked out of school.
“I sat there on D.B.’s desk and read the whole notebook. It didn’t take me long, and I can read that kind of stuff, some kid’s notebook, Phoebe’s or anybody’s, all day and all night long.”
This is quite revealing as to Holden’s bias. It doesn’t matter if a kid does something he would call someone else phony for, the fact that they’re a kid changes Holden’s opinion. It kind of shows just how skewed Holden’s perception of reality is, made up of entirely unrelated rules and ideologies.
Chapter 22 p.183-192
Holden goes back to talk to Phoebe about the things he likes, getting kicked out, Allie’s death, why he hated Pencey, and other random topics.
The piece of content is how Salinger doesn’t really stay true to Holden’s tone with this chapter, and it’s intentional.
Salinger makes Holden a lot nicer in this chapter. Harder to hate. It’s in an attempt to allow the reader to absorb the major metaphor in the chapter. Sort of butter them up. Also, it further hammers the point that Holden doesn’t hold children to the same standards as anyone else.
Chapter 23 p.192-199
Holden makes plans to go see Mr. Antolini, Holden’s parents arrive home, Phoebe talks with her mother and covers for Holden, and Holden borrows money from Phoebe, causing him to break down and cry.
“I found the edge of the bed in the dark and sat down on it and started putting on my shoes. I was pretty nervous. I admit it.”
This quote is very subtle, but it goes very deep. Holden is nervous, and at face value, it’s about being caught by his parents and put into an awkward situation. However, when put into context, Holden is nervous about disappointing his sister when he leaves, though he doesn’t want to flat out say this. Within the next few pages Holden stops caring about his parents finding him, so his nerves more likely come from his sister’s opinion of him.

Chapter 24 p.199-213
Mr. Antolini, while dunk, tries to talk to Holden about straightening out his future, and applying himself, but then Holden goes to sleep in Mr. Antolini’s house, wakes up to Mr. Antolini patting his head, and then leaves in panic.
“‘It may be the kind where, at the age of thirty, you sit in some bar hating everybody who comes in looking as if he might have played football in college. Then again, you may pick up just enough education to hate people who say, ‘It’s a secret between he and I.’ Or you may end up in some business office, throwing paper clips at the nearest stenographer.’”
This just hits too close to home. I can’t go a single moment without finding something to hate in a person. I’m the type of guy who uses sarcasm to account for the fact that he isn’t really where he wants to be at all times, and so is Holden. The same with the “He and I” thing. I can’t stand the little things that people say to eachother simply because they’re supposed to. When someone says something like “literally” or “Like” I want to scream or vomit, and I know this is a problem with my self and not others. It’s just a colloquialism. And with a plethora of alcoholic family members, the idea of being a sad guy in a bar who thinks he is too smart for this world isn’t that far from a real fear. Even the office thing. I mean, would I hate myself more if I was a sad drunk or the sober guy in the office who enjoys wacky tie Wednesday and office Christmas parties. Everything just really was too close for comfort with this quote.
Chapter 25 p. 213-234
Holden decides to head out west, erases graffiti from Phoebe’s school while waiting to give her a note informing her of his plans, goes to the museum, talks to two kids, sees more graffiti, passes out, sees Phoebe, takes her to the zoo after upsetting her and telling her to shut up due to her plans to accompany Holden West, takes her to a carrousel, watches her ride it, and the sits happily in the pouring rain.
“That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any. You may think there is, but once you get there, when you’re not looking, somebody’ll sneak up and write ‘F*** you.’”
Very clearly metaphorical of Holden’s life and mind. He doesn’t believe that there is anywhere peaceful on Earth, and the ‘f*** you’ is representative of bad things in general, the general course of nature. The whole book has been leading up to this, as Holden has been tested and battered again and again. It’s not quite giving up, it’s just a clear idea that everything is actually terrible being formed and cemented. All it took to push him over the edge was a small piece of graffiti on a museum wall.

Chapter 26 p. 234
Holden, admitting he is in a psychiatric ward, says he doesn’t want to talk about his story anymore, admits he misses everyone in it, and hints at the possibility that he may improve in school and apply himself.
“If you want to know the truth, I don’t know what I think about it. I’m sorry I told so many people about it.”
I find it unique how Salinger retains the “Holdenism,” if you want to know the truth.  I mean, we’ve read for 234 pages so we obviously want to know the truth. It’s kind of a stupid thing to say, but it sticks true to the tone, so props I guess. Like, after 234 pages of reading we spontaneously stop wanting to know the truth. Don’t be weird Holden; don’t say dumb stuff.