The Catcher in the Rye, from Chapter 5
The manuscript for this chapter was heavily emended in Salinger’s hand. Some of the notations are illegible; some are themselves emended. This draft captures as well as possible the intent of the entire manuscript, but some inconsistencies are inevitable.
It is also likely that this chapter was not removed from the original manuscript on the direct orders of Ajax Downy. Downy himself did not pursue writers with the vigor his father did. Notations on the packet are in an unfamiliar hand. Keel Cullen believes the Salinger manuscript was deleted by an underling hoping to curry favor with Downy. Cullen agrees with several Salinger experts who have argued that the chapter was actually omitted by Salinger himself. The famously reclusive author has not answered enquiries.
I’m really bad at sports. Really I am. Mostly it’s my fault. I just can’t stand all the goddam rules. That’s why Jane and I didn’t really hit it off, if you really want to know the truth. It was that summer we were in Maine, with her phony bastard of a stepfather. That’s what did it. Of course Maine is outdoorsy as hell, everybody always skiing and hunting and all.
Jane’s stepfather was trying to kiss up to me all the time, for some goddam reason. Anyway he invited me to go on this flyfishing trip with him and these other two goddam phonies he knew, big flyfishing guys, to some goddam river by some goddam lake that was supposed to have all these goddam fish in it that were easy to catch.
That kills me. Lots of rivers have fish in them but it’s sporting to go far to some forgotten little river nobody ever sees because the fish are so stupid, they’re just like they always were. It isn’t fair, not that anything is really fair or all that. Anyway, it kills me that a grown man has to find the stupidest fish to catch, that he can’t try to catch the smarter fish that have been around and all. The easier it is, the more sport.
Walter--that was his name--even got me this flyrod that cost about a thousand bucks at Abercrombie and Fitch, and we stood around on the lawn and practiced with it. I was no good, to tell you the truth. Half the time Walter was talking about this flitty stuff like how flowing water is good for your karma. It was so goddam phony. When I wanted to think about it and try it I kept seeing Jane’s teardrop landing on the red square of the checkerboard, and I’d swish that goddam fly rod around like I was back on the fencing team at good old Pencey. Not that I was ever on the team, but you get my point.
So I wasn’t like a smashing success at the flycasting but he let me go anyway. So one morning we go driving up to this place on the Allagash. Everybody was all excited and tired and bored at the same time--phonies. This judge something-or-other kept talking to me real friendly about how early it was like I was not capable of getting up before the sunrise. To tell you the truth I was up already; I don’t need all that much sleep. I can stay up all the time if I want to.
So we went in this goddam station wagon for about ten hours. It was raining like hell, of course. These old geezers and Walter are jazzed up, excited about the stupid fish. I was kind of excited too, to tell you the truth, but I couldn’t really admit it. Not that I wanted to catch a fish that much, but the whole thing was kind of interesting from an intellectual point of view.
We stopped in some little grown-over dead-end. The rain had stopped and it was misty as hell all over the place, pretty beautiful in a drippy and smoky kind of way. But I wasn’t in the mood anymore on account of what I’d seen on the way up.
See, we went off the highway onto this little road, and went miles and miles through about a million stumps. Just stumps. All the trees had been cut down. Every goddam one. They couldn’t even leave a single tree. They had to cut them all. I was watching them go by for a year. And here’s what got me about it, besides the phony judge talking nonstop about how great it was that all these Maine guys had jobs, and the wood made money, and all that. He was just saying that because he was as shocked as I was. I mean, I understand economics and jobs and stuff, even though I grew up in Manhattan and we had a maid. It wasn’t that.
What got me was the edges. See, it was a million goddam stumps, but every place you could see the end of the stumps, way off in the distance, sometimes closer to the road. And they’d just end, like a wall. I mean, I knew that was probably the place where the loggers had to stop, a boundary of some kind like the county line. But it was worse than the stumps, really. I’m not sure why, but it was worse. We’d drive along a while, and there’d be stumps, then suddenly trees again. Of course, we remember the stumps, because trees are normal and all, but the trees was what got to me. I mean, I know trees aren’t smart and sentient and all that, but I couldn’t help thinking about how tough it must be on one tree to be in a forest, then suddenly on the edge of the forest. It made me think, is all.
So we get out of the stumps, anyhow, and into an area where there are lots of little trees, like the big ones got cut a long time ago. That was better, because you could see how the forest might grow back. Though not soon enough, if you ask me.
Anyway, we pass this house. I mean, we passed a lot of houses of course, but this one stuck in my mind, and not just because it was all I could see out the window because the car was crammed with bags and tents and leather cases, manly as hell. It was raining, all drizzly, and here’s this house. It’s really old and all, but you can tell the people who lived there loved that house. There was this crooked doorway and they’d painted the edges bright red. I mean, bright red, so you could see how crooked it was from the road. And the driveway was mud, but the grass was green and straight, and I saw the edge of the garden in the back, behind a high fence. I loved that garden. I didn’t see any people, but just knew that they were proud of their house, that they liked where they lived. I thought they were probably old, and probably didn’t have children. It would be hard to live in cut-down woods all the time, cold and frozen in the winter, with children, and still love the house like they did.
Then we got to this bridge over the river—that was the first time I really got a sense of what was going to happen. It was about a thousand years old, wooden and narrow and all, but it arched over the river, real proud and tall. I liked that, and also from the top of the bridge you could see the river go on down a long way through the woods and curve away. It looked really green, and it went into these thin islands and out of sight. Only problem is those guys, especially that judge. He always had to talk. You’d have thought we’d seen the Statue of Liberty the way those men talked. We weren’t ten feet across the river and they all have all these things to say about it, like it’s clear and flowing well and all, as if coming all this way to catch the dumbest trout wasn’t enough of an advantage.
Well, you get the picture, I think. Fly fishing wasn’t a success, even though I caught some fish—they were really stupid, turns out—and didn’t break anything, and managed to stay mostly dry, and though I wanted to get the hell out, I stayed. The thing that meant the most to me, you know, was staying. Allie always said that, but I never got it, as usual. Just hanging around is the point, that’s what he said. Ironic, of course, as if anything wasn’t.