While there are many more to choose from, these ten touches on some of the most familiar themes in his oeuvre and give a good overview of the topics that his stories engage with.
Relationships and Happiness
I’m sick of just liking people. I wish to God I could meet somebody I could respect.Franny and Zooey
This quote, which comes from “Franny and Zooey” is self-explanatory. It raises questions of what it means to respect someone and what the requirements are, for the characters in these stories, in the wider Glass family, or for the readers, to create respect. Salinger crafted characters who were damaged and far from perfect. Many longed for lives they didn’t have or for something nameless that they couldn’t quite discover. This quote is representative of that longing and dissatisfaction.
Death and “Fake-ness”
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 goddam 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.The Catcher in the Rye
These lines are some of the best-known, and most commonly quotes in The Catcher in the Rye. Here, the character Holden is expressing his very strongly held option about death. While he sees suicide as something noble, he has nothing but dictates the process after death. He sees their mourning as fake, something put on in order to make themselves seem like they care more than they do.
The Inner Voice and Self-Doubt
She worries over the way her love for me comes and goes, appears and disappears. She doubts its reality simply because it isn’t as steadily pleasurable as a kitten. God knows it is sad. The human voice conspires to desecrate everything on earth.Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters
These memorable lines come from “Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters” the title story of a set of two novellas. The other being “Seymour: An Introduction”. Both of these stories center around Salinger’s fiction Glass family. In these lines, a reader is asked to consider their own inner voice and how it influences one’s life. How does self-doubt change what you do? The inner “human voice” is capable of destroying good things that come one’s way.
The Reality of War
I remember standing at an end window of our Quonset hut for a very long time, looking out at the slanting, dreary rain, my trigger finger itching imperceptibly, if at all. I could hear behind my back the uncomradely scratching of many fountain pens on many sheets of V-mail paper.From Esmé with love and Squalor
These lines come from “From Esmé with love and Squalor,” by far one of Salinger’s best-loved stories. In it, a soldier meets and say goodbye to a young woman before he’s sent into battle. A reader should leave these lines with no doubt that the soldiers on a battlefield are far from eager. More than anything, they’re bored, bored of fear and bored of worry.
A Solider’s Life and Luck
I ignored the flashes of lightning around me. They either had your number on them or they didn’t.From Esmé with love and Squalor
These lines also come from “From Esmé with love and Squalor”. The speaker has really only just become a solider and is still filled with the courage of youth. He is still feels somewhat invincible and believes in luck and chance. This quote, taken along side the previous from “Esmé” suggests Salinger’s various approaches to war and the soldier’s mental state.
Mental Illness and Desperation
If you want to look at my feet, say so,” said the young man. “But don’t be a God-damned sneak about it.A Perfect Day for Bananafish
This is a quote from “A Perfect Day for Bananafish”. It comes at a pivotal point in the story when Seymour is on his way back to his hotel room. On the way, he accuses a woman who he’s in the elevator with of staring at his feet. He’s very unwell at this point, having received no real treatment since returning from the war. After this, he goes to his notes room to commit suicide. These lines are troubling and represent Seymour’s fragile state of mind. They’re also a great example of Salinger’s skill at depicting very real feeling moments.
Suicide and Death
Then he went over sat down on the unoccupied bed, looked at the girl, aimed the pistol, and fired a bullet through his right temple.A Perfect Day for Bananafish
These lines are the last in “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” the story that introduces readers to Seymour’s suicide. This event is at the heart of several other stories, influencing various characters. In the lines of the text, the reader can feel Seymour growing more and more distressed while those around him don’t do anything to help him. Salinger describes Seymour’s suicide in a matter of fact way. This is juxtaposed against the outburst the man had in the elevator, as seen in the previous quote.
The Afterlife and Remembrance
Teddy lingered for a moment at the door, reflectively experimenting with the door handle, turning it slowly left and right. “After I go out this door, I may only exist in the minds of all my acquaintances,” he said. “I may be an orange peel.Teddy
In these lines from “Teddy” Salinger’s character, Teddy considers the changes, or lack thereof, that are going to come over the world after he’s dead. He compares his existence after death to an “orange peel”. A reader is asked to consider whether something exists after its gone or if it ever really did at all.
Maybe there’s a trapdoor under my chair, and I’ll just disappear.Franny and Zooey
Franny speaks these words midway through “Franny and Zooey”. Here, her depression is quite clearly laid out. Like many of Salinger’s characters, she’s intensely dissatisfied with her life.
Anxiety and Relationships
Let’s just try to have a marvelous time this weekend. I mean not try to analyze everything to death for once, if possible. Especially me. I love you.Franny and Zooey
In these lines, Franny is alluding to her larger problems of depression, dissatisfaction, and self-doubt. This quote relates to others on this list as it discusses the inner voice that often sabotages good situations.