In the Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, Holden Caulfield goes to spend the night at the house of his previous English teacher, Mr. Antolini. Holden, despite his exhaustion, stays up to have a small discussion with Mr. Antolini out of politeness. Mr. Antolini shares his concern for Holden’s future with him, and in doing so quotes the words of Wilhelm Stekel.
“Here’s what he said: ‘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.'” (pp. 107-108)
When reading this, I was reminded of one of the concepts brought up in Romeo and Juliet, the other text I am currently reading. In Romeo and Juliet, the two lovers take their own lives for one another– or, in other words, die “nobly” for the cause of love. I, however, believe that this act was much more of an immature impulsion brought about by the excitement of young infatuation. Thus, when I read this quotation, I immediately thought of it in the context of Shakespeare’s play. To the extent of my memory, this was the first time in the Catcher in the Rye that something said actually sparked any kind of new and interesting consideration in me. However, as it was a quotation taken from somewhere else, not too much credit can be given to the book itself. Stekel summarized my thoughts on Romeo and Juliet in a very succinct and appropriate way, and thus gave me a clearer understanding of the underlying idea behind how I felt about the actions of Romeo and Juliet. I appreciated this, and am now at least able to say that the Catcher in the Rye gave me some, if rather indirect, new insight into life.