"It's 'If a body meet a body coming through the rye'!" old Phoebe said."It's a poem. By Robert Burns."
"I know it's a poem by Robert Burns."
She was right, though. It is "If a body meet a body coming through the rye." I didn't know it then, though.
"I thought it was 'If a body catch a body,' " I said. "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. And 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 know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."
-The Catcher in the Rye
In high school, this was one of the few required books I actually read (making my decision to be an English major a bit ironic). At first, I was rather indifferent, but at the end, I fell in love. In case you haven't read it, it's the story that takes place over a weekend. The main character, Holden, has failed out of school and is trying to prolong the arrival home as much as possible. It's basically him realizing how jaded he has become and trying to deal with it.
I decided to read it again my senior year and set it on top of the rest of my books, and I guess some of the reason was to look smart. But my friend looked at it and told me it was probably the most boring book he had ever read. I told him I disagreed. Then he asked me what was good about it, and my mind instantly shot to the above passage.
We all fall out of innocence, and no matter how we behave, we all somehow grieve it. The line "If a body meet a body coming through the rye" is referencing sex. Sex is, most often, lost innocence. But Holden's version is the opposite. He sees it as saving these children from the fall. He sees himself as standing there, arms outstretched, saying, "No, stop! I've been to the bottom, I know what it's like! Please don't lose this. Please go back and keep playing." And I think that makes this passage one of the most beautiful things written inside of the twentieth century.
RIP Mr. Salinger. Your words will never be forgotten.