The Catcher in the Rye

J. D. Salinger
Main Ideas

Metaphors and Similes

Main Ideas Metaphors and Similes

Chapter 2

Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules. 

When Holden visits his teacher before he leaves Pencey, Mr. Spencer tries to convince Holden to put more effort into his classwork at the prep school, comparing life to a game with well-defined rules that must be followed.  

Boy, his bed was like a rock. 

In this simile, Holden sits down on a bed during an uncomfortable meeting about his poor grades with his disapproving teacher Mr. Spencer, comparing the hardness of Mr. Spencer’s bed to a stone. 

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

In this quote, Mr. Spencer reads aloud Holden’s incorrect, and sometimes ridiculous answers on a test, and Holden compares Mr. Spencer’s disgust for his exam paper to the way he might feel about holding a piece of feces. 

He was hot as a firecracker. 

Holden often describes angry people as being “hot,” and here he compares the heat of Mr. Spencer’s anger to that of a firecracker.  

Chapter 8

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

In this simile, Holden compares Morrow’s lack of sensitivity to that of a toilet seat, an inanimate object incapable of sensation that is also very rigid and unyielding when sat upon.  

Chapter 11

I don't want you to get the idea she was a goddam icicle or something, just because we never necked or horsed around much. 

In this metaphor, Holden argues that Jane is not like other chaste girls, whom he compares to icicles, suggesting they are cold-hearted and uninterested in sexual experimentation.   

Ernie's is this night club in Greenwich Village that my brother D.B. used to go to quite frequently before he went out to Hollywood and prostituted himself. 

Holden uses this metaphor to compare D.B.’s Hollywood writing job to that of a prostitute, suggesting that D.B. has shamefully sold his talents for money. 

Chapter 16

Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone.  

In this metaphor, Holden compares his desire to hold onto his and Phoebe’s childhoods to a glass case in a museum that keeps precious memories safe. 

Chapter 18 

The part that got me was, there was a lady sitting next to me that cried all through the goddam picture. The phonier it got, the more she cried. You'd have thought she did it because she was kindhearted as hell, but I was sitting right next to her, and she wasn't. She had this little kid with her that was bored as hell and had to go to the bathroom, but she wouldn't take him. She kept telling him to sit still and behave himself. She was about as kindhearted as a goddam wolf. 

In this simile, Holden watches a woman ignore her squirming child who clearly needs attention, comparing the mother’s lack of kindness to that of a wolf, a fierce predator known for only pretending to be kind. 

Chapter 24

Something else an academic education will do for you. If you go along with it any considerable distance, it'll begin to give you an idea what size mind you have. What it'll fit and, maybe, what it won't. After a while, you'll have an idea what kind of thoughts your particular size mind should be wearing. For one thing, it may save you an extraordinary amount of time trying on ideas that don't suit you, aren't becoming to you. You'll begin to know your true measurements and dress your mind accordingly. 

In this extended metaphor, Mr. Antolini attempts to convince Holden that school is worth his effort, comparing the mind to the body and the ideas presented in classrooms to articles of clothing  that will only “fit” or suit certain minds.