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The Catcher in the Rye

Quotes

New York City

Quotes New York City

Chapter 12

It was so quiet and lonesome out, even though it was Saturday night. I didn't see hardly anybody on the street. Now and then you just saw a man and a girl crossing a street, with their arms around each other's waists and all, or a bunch of hoodlumy-looking guys and their dates, all of them laughing like hyenas at something you could bet wasn't funny. New York's terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night. You can hear it for miles. It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed. 

Riding through New York in a cab on a Saturday night, Holden characterizes the city as a “quiet and lonesome” place with hardly a person in sight. Yet in the next breath, Holden goes on to describe happy couples and groups of people laughing like hyenas. Ironically, hearing other people’s laughter only makes Holden feel more lonesome and depressed. Perhaps because he feels alone in the big city, he cynically assumes that the happy people he sees must be phony. 

Chapter 16

The floor was all stone, and if you had some marbles in your hand and you dropped them, they bounced like madmen all over the floor and made a helluva racket, and the teacher would hold up the class and go back and see what the hell was going on. She never got sore, though, Miss Aigletinger. Then you'd pass by this long, long Indian war canoe, about as long as three goddam Cadillacs in a row, with about twenty Indians in it, some of them paddling, some of them just standing around looking tough, and they all had war paint all over their faces. There was one very spooky guy in the back of the canoe, with a mask on. He was the witch doctor. He gave me the creeps, but I liked him anyway. Another thing, if you touched one of the paddles or anything while you were passing, one of the guards would say to you, "Don't touch anything, children," but he always said it in a nice voice, not like a goddam cop or anything. 

In these lines, Holden nostalgically describes what it was like to walk through New York’s Museum of Natural History as a child. When the kids drop their marbles and disturb everyone, the teacher doesn’t get mad, and when a child breaks the rules, the guard simply tells them to stop “in a nice voice.” Unlike most of the other episodes in his story, Holden frames his childhood memories of the museum in a positive light—even those memories that are potentially negative. His sentimental, idealized memories of the museum contrast starkly with his generally cynical attitude toward the world. 

Chapter 25

I knew where her school was, naturally, because I went there myself when I was a kid. When I got there, it felt funny. I wasn't sure I'd remember what it was like inside, but I did. It was exactly the same as it was when I went there. They had that same big yard inside, that was always sort of dark, with those cages around the light bulbs so they wouldn't break if they got hit with a ball. They had those same white circles painted all over the floor, for games and stuff. And those same old basketball rings without any nets--just the backboards and the rings. 

When Holden visits Phoebe’s school to leave a note for her, he seems to take comfort in how little the school has changed since he was a student there. As with the museum, the school represents a stable connection to Holden’s past. Even though the gymnasium seems to be dark and somewhat neglected, Holden seems pleased that it is exactly the same as he remembers.  

Boy, it began to rain like a bastard. In buckets, I swear to God. All the parents and mothers and everybody went over and stood right under the roof of the carrousel, so they wouldn't get soaked to the skin or anything, but I stuck around on the bench for quite a while. I got pretty soaking wet, especially my neck and my pants. My hunting hat really gave me quite a lot of protection, in a way; but I got soaked anyway. I didn't care, though. I felt so damn happy all of sudden, the way old Phoebe kept going around and around. I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy, if you want to know the truth. I don't know why. It was just that she looked so damn nice, the way she kept going around and around, in her blue coat and all. 

As Phoebe rides the merry-go-round in Central Park, rain starts pouring down and Holden suddenly feels inexplicably euphoric, one of the rare moments in the story when Holden claims to feel happy rather than depressed or lonesome. Despite getting drenched, Holden remains on the park bench watching Phoebe and fighting back tears of joy. Phoebe’s childlike innocence as she rides the carousel elates Holden. Ironically, the rain that seems to trigger his happiness sends everyone else running for cover. Once again, Holden reacts to his surroundings differently than most other people.