- "Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.": Mr. Spencer in chapter 2. This quote is ironic since Holden never believes that life is a game. In fact, he believes the opposite— he is deathly serious about life, and he doesn’t accept the rules set before him by phony adults.
- "Ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row.": Holden in chapter 4. This quote demonstrates Holden’s child-like nature. Though he’s a seventeen-year-old in high school he is still captivated by early memories.
- "For Chrissake, Holden. This is about a goddam baseball glove.": Stradlater in chapter 6. Here, Stradlater rejects more than Holden’s paper, but he also unknowingly rejects Allie. This hurts Holden deeply, contributing to his self-frustration and alienation from society.
- "Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad." This shows not only Holden’s personal frustration but also his overwhelming inferiority complex. He feels guilty when anyone offers something of value to him without his payment.
- "My brother D.B.’s a writer and all, and my brother Allie, the one that died, that I told you about, was a wizard. I’m the only really dumb one.": Holden in chapter 10. Again this shows his lack of self confidence and feeling that he’s a failure to his family.
- "Then she really started to cry, and the next thing I knew, I was kissing her all over...": Holden in chapter 11. Here Salinger suggests that Holden has no control over his body; it seems to move itself. This also suggests that Holden has no control over his world. Although he wants to protect the child-like innocence that he’s already lost, he finds it almost impossible in such a large and unfriendly world.
- "I’m always saying ‘Glad to’ve met you’ to someone I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.": Holden in chapter 12. Here Holden underscores his entire philosophy of life. He attempts not to keep himself alive, but to keep alive the innocence of those around him. He wants them to think he really is glad to meet them in order to preserve their innocence.
- "I felt like jumping out the window. I probably would’ve, 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 in chapter 14. Like the previous quote, Holden is striving to preserve the innocence of those around him. He doesn’t want anyone to have to see his bloody body after his suicide.
- "What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff— I mean if they’re running and they don’t look where they’re going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That’s all I’d do all day. I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all.": Holden in chapter 22. Here Holden tells Phoebe the basic theme of the novel. Holden sees himself as a martyr and protector of innocent children. He wants to keep them from falling over the cliff into adulthood.
- "Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.": Holden in chapter 26. This proves that Holden has really learned nothing from his long narration to the reader. He is still unable to differentiate between good and evil people and like a true catcher in the rye, tries to absorb everything and everyone into his base of experience.
The Catcher in the Rye: Top Ten Quotes