Key Quotes

1. “If a body meet a body comin’ through the rye.”

The line comes from Robert Burns’ poem “Comin Thro’ the Rye,” which is a kind of love ballad like much of Burns’ poetry. For Holden it takes on a much bigger dimension and represents his love of innocence and what he sees as his vocation—which is to be the catcher in the rye.

2. “The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.”

This line comes from Wilhelm Stekel, the psychoanalyst. Mr. Antolini gives it Holden for him to consider. What Mr. Antolini fails to consider is that Holden already has a great deal of maturity for his age. In fact, it may be said that Holden possesses the humility of which Stekel speaks: after all, it is Holden who wants no great mansion but rather humbly to be a simple catcher in the rye—living for a noble cause, the preservation of innocence. Ironically, Mr. Antolini misses this in his former pupil and only frightens him later; Stekel, likewise, showed the extent of his own maturity and ability to live humbly for a noble cause when he took his own life.

3. “Allie, don’t let me disappear.”

This line occurs near the end of the novel when Holden is breaking down from nervousness and exhaustion. While he wants to be a sort of catcher in the rye, he sees he himself is in need of protection from a higher place. He prays to Allie, someone he knows and has loved who has gone on to the other world—he prays to him for protection. He prays he might not disappear or fall of the cliff.

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