Get a comprehensive list of all the most important and memorable The Catcher in the Rye quotes by J.D. Salinger in one spot below.

person holding the catcher in the rye by jd salinger over a rug.

As a quick summary before we get to the best The Catcher in the Rye quotes, The Catcher in the Rye is the beloved classic “banned book” (and one of the best selling novels of all time) that has inspired generations of angsty teens.

It’s an easy classic and a character-driven novel that explores two days in the life of sixteen-year-old Holden Caulfield after he is expelled from school. This book set in school then leaves him to navigate New York feeling confused, disillusioned, and at odds with adulthood.

Like Perks of Being a Wallflower, Holden’s inner and spoken dialogue in these The Catcher in the Rye quotes exquisitely captures the feelings of many who are coming of age, making him one of the most memorable male literary characters of all time and the book an especially beloved book for men to read.

Fun fact: Readers of the Rory Gilmore book list may recall Rory comparing Jess Mariano to Holden Caulfield on the Gilmore Girls. The resemblances are pretty uncanny!

These The Catcher in the Rye quotes range from relatable to funny, and the quotations cover themes like society, being phony, being immature, being different, innocence, loneliness, growing up, depression, isolation, family, alienation, and death. They make especially great senior quotes for yearbooks.

These The Catcher in the Rye quotes are also so many good phrases that also touch upon Holden’s relationships and talk about Allie and about Phoebe.

Below are the best The Catcher in the Rye quotes for you to analyze and savor, followed by answers to the most frequently asked questions about them.

Catcher in the Rye Quotes

Below are the most famous The Catcher in the Rye quotes.

“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.”

Read More: Famous Opening Sentences in Books

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. 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.”

“I’d just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it’s crazy, but that’s the only thing I’d really like to be. I know it’s crazy.”

“What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.”

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

“I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.”

“I like it when somebody gets excited about something. It’s nice.”

“I think that one of these days…you’re going to have to find out where you want to go. And then you’ve got to start going there. But immediately. You can’t afford to lose a minute.”

“The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’ It made me feel better. It made me feel not so depressed any more.”

“People never notice anything.”

“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.”

“I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.”

“I live in New York, and I was thinking about the lagoon in Central Park, down near Central Park South. I was wondering if it would be frozen over when I got home, and if it was, where did the ducks go? I was wondering where the ducks went when the lagoon got all icy and frozen over. I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away.”

“The thing is, it’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs – if yours are really good ones and theirs aren’t.” 

“The thing with kids is, if they want to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off, they fall off, but it is bad to say anything to them.”

“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.”

“Lawyers are all right, I guess – but it doesn’t appeal to me,” I said. “I mean they’re all right if they go around saving innocent guys’ lives all the time, and like that, but you don’t do that kind of stuff if you’re a lawyer. All you do is make a lot of dough and play golf and play bridge and buy cars and drink Martinis and look like a hot-shot.”

“I don’t even know what I was running for—I guess I just felt like it.”

“Grand. There’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.”

“A lot of people, especially this one psychoanalyst guy they have here, keeps asking me if I’m going to apply myself when I go back to school next September. It’s such a stupid question, in my opinion. I mean how do you know what you’re going to do till you do it?”

“It always smelled like it was raining outside, even if it wasn’t, and you were in the only nice, dry, cozy place in the world.”

“My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder’s mitt. He was left handed. The thing that was descriptive about it though, was that he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he’d have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up to bat. He’s dead now.”

“Girls. You never know what they’re going to think.”

“In the first place, my parents are different religions, and all the children in our family are atheists.”

“I think if you don’t really like a girl, you shouldn’t horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you’re supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it.”

“If you want to know the truth, I can’t even stand ministers. The ones they’ve had at every school I’ve gone to, they all have these Holy Joe voices when they start giving their sermons. God, I hate that.” 

“It’s really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes.”

“This fall I think you’re riding for—it’s a special kind of fall, a horrible kind. The man falling isn’t permitted to feel or hear himself hit bottom. He just keeps falling and falling.”

“People always clap for the wrong reasons.”

“And I have one of those very loud, stupid laughs. I mean if I ever sat behind myself in a movie or something, I’d probably lean over and tell myself to please shut up.”

“He was singing that song, ‘If a body catch a body coming through the rye.’ He had a pretty little voice too.”

“Make sure you marry someone who laughs at the same things you do.”

“Then I started reading this timetable I had in my pocket. Just to stop lying. Once I get started, I can go on for hours if I feel like it. No kidding. Hours.”

“The whole arrangement’s designed for men who, at some time or other in their lives, were looking for something their own environment couldn’t supply them with. Or they thought their own environment couldn’t supply them with. So they gave up looking. They gave it up before they ever really even got started.”

“That’s the whole trouble. You can’t ever find a place that’s nice and peaceful, because there isn’t any.”

“People never think anything is anything really.”

“Catholics are always trying to find out if you’re Catholic.”

“Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad.”

“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. I know that’s impossible, but it’s too bad anyway.”

“People never give your message to anybody.”

“It was that kind of a crazy afternoon, terrifically cold, and no sun out or anything, and you felt like you were disappearing every time you crossed a road.”

“Among other things, you’ll find that you’re not the first person who was ever confused and frightened and even sickened by human behavior. You’re by no means alone on that score, you’ll be excited and stimulated to know.”

“It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands and they’ll do practically anything you want them to.”

“I can’t stand that stuff. It drives me crazy. It makes me so depressed I go crazy.”

“Pencey was full of crooks. Quite a few guys came from these wealthy families, but it was full of crooks anyway. The more expensive a school is, the more crooks it has – I’m not kidding.”

“When the light was on and all, I sort of looked at her for a while. She was laying there asleep, with her face sort of on the side of the pillow. She had her mouth way open. It’s funny. You take adults, they look lousy when they’re asleep and they have their mouths way open, but kids don’t. Kids look all right. They can even have spit all over the pillow and they still look all right.”

“Many, many men have been just as troubled morally and spiritually as you are right now.”

“But what I mean is, lots of time you don’t know what interests you most till you start talking about something that doesn’t interest you most. I mean you can’t help it sometimes.”

“You’ll learn from them—if you want to. Just as someday, if you have something to offer, someone will learn something from you. It’s a beautiful reciprocal arrangement. And it isn’t education. It’s history. It’s poetry.”

“‘This is a people shooting hat,’ I said. ‘I shoot people in this hat.'”

“All morons hate it when you call them a moron.”

“One of the biggest reasons I left Elkton Hills was because I was surrounded by phonies. That’s all.” 

“If you sat around there long enough and heard all the phonies applauding and all, you got to hate everybody in the world, I swear you did.”

“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s the movies. Don’t even mention them to me.”

“I used to think she was quite intelligent , in my stupidity. The reason I did was because she knew quite a lot about the theater and plays and literature and all that stuff. If somebody knows quite a lot about all those things, it takes you quite a while to find out whether they’re really stupid or not.”

“That’s the 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. Girls. They can drive you crazy. They really can.”

“You can’t stop a teacher when they want to do something. They just do it.”

“The trouble was, that kind of junk is sort of fascinating to watch, even if you don’t want it to be.”

“I’m the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life. It’s awful. If I’m on my way to the store to buy a magazine, even, and somebody asks me where I’m going, I’m liable to say I’m going to the opera. It’s terrible.”

“I wouldn’t exactly describe her as strictly beautiful. She knocked me out, though.”

“Then, all of a sudden, I started to cry. I couldn’t help it. I did it so nobody could hear me, but I did it.”

“Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.”

“The guy I like best in the Bible, next to Jesus, was that lunatic and all, that lived in the tombs and kept cutting himself with stones. I like him ten times as much as the disciples.”

“I was half in love with her by the time we sat down.”

“I can be quite sarcastic when I’m in the mood.”

“She was terrific to hold hands with.”

“If you do something too good, then, after a while, if you don’t watch it, you start showing off. And then you’re not as good any more.”

“God, I love it when a kid’s nice and polite when you tighten their skate for them or something. Most kids are. They really are.”

“I am always saying “Glad to’ve met you” to somebody I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.”

“Mothers are all slightly insane.”

“I was the only one left in the tomb then. I sort of liked it, in a way. It was so nice and peaceful.”

“I wouldn’t mind being pretty good at that stuff.”

“When I really worry about something, I don’t just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only, I don’t go. I’m too worried to go. I don’t want to interrupt my worrying to go.”

“Sleep tight, ya morons!”

“All you knew was, you were happy. You really were.”

“The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. . . . Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you.”

“People never believe you.”

“Then the carousel started, and I watched her go round and round…”

“She was about a thousand miles away.”

“That’s the nice thing about carousels, they always play the same songs.”

“I’d only been in about two fights in my life, and I lost both of them. I’m not too tough. I’m a pacifist, if you want to know the truth.”

“People are mostly hot to have a discussion when you’re not.”

“You don’t like anything that’s happening…. You don’t like any schools. You don’t like a million things. You don’t.”

“I sat in the chair for a while and smoked a couple of cigarettes. It was getting daylight outside. Boy, I felt miserable. I felt so depressed, you can’t imagine. What I did, I started talking, sort of out loud, to Allie. I do that sometimes when I get very depressed.”

“I had this feeling that I’d never get to the other side of the street. I thought I’d just go down, down, down, and nobody’d ever see me again. . . . But I kept going. I was sort of afraid to stop, I think.”

“I was surrounded by jerks. I’m not kidding.”

“It’s partly true, too, but it isn’t all true. People always think something’s all true.”

“I hate actors. They never act like people. They just think they do.”

“Ask her if she still keeps all her kings in the back row.”

“It’s not too bad when the sun’s out, but the sun only comes out when it feels like coming out.”

“I’m just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, don’t they?”

“I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, but I mean it.”

“When you’re dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a … cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you’re dead? Nobody.”

“Real ugly girls have it tough. I feel so sorry for them sometimes.”

“Sensitive. That killed me. That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a toilet seat.”

“I know he’s dead! Don’t you think I know that? I can still like him, though, can’t I? Just because somebody’s dead, you don’t just stop liking them, for God’s sake–especially if they were about a thousand times nicer than the people you know that’re alive and all.”

“Then she really started to cry, and the next thing I knew, I was kissing her all over.”

“People are always ruining things for you.”

“I was trying to feel some kind of good-bye. I mean I’ve left schools and places I didn’t even know I was leaving them. I hate that. I don’t care if it’s a sad good-bye or a bad good-bye, but when I leave a place I like to know I’m leaving it. If you don’t you feel even worse.”

“Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.”

Read More: Best Book Endings

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the opening line of The Catcher in the Rye?

The first sentence of The Catcher in the Rye is: “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.”

What is the most important quote in The Catcher in the Rye?

In The Catcher in the Rye, the protagonist Holden Caulfield’s former teacher tells him, “Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules.” This quote characterizes Holden and his journey in the novel as completely opposed to this way of thinking. He is an outsider, feeling alienated and different than adults like his teacher, and he views the rules of life as illogical.

What does Holden Caulfield always say?

In The Catcher in the Rye, protagonist Holden Caulfield is best known for the lines that gave the book its title:

“Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody’s around – nobody big, I mean – except me. I’m standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. 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.”

What is the last line of The Catcher in the Rye?

The final sentence of The Catcher in the Rye is: “Don’t tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” 


Now you know all the best The Catcher in the Rye quotes.

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One Comment

  1. “Catcher” is not a coming-of-age story. Holden’s life is static; there is no growth happening. It’s a story of grief over the loss of Allie, the beloved brother. The red hat is Holden being Allie, alive. (Allie had red hair.) Forgetting the fencing gear? Grief. The love of museums? Nobody dies in the museum; the displays are immortal. Holden’s love of ducklings and small children? Symbols of Allie. His favorite prof wants to know what Holden is feeling, because the boy is an emotional blank from suppressed grief. He “just happens” to have Allie’s glove with him, the one with poems scrawled over it in green ink. Whoever decided to put Catcher in the HS curriculum should have his head examined. It’s a book about children, not a book for children.