So what I did, I wrote about my brother Allie’s baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really was. 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 at bat. He’s dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You’d have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. His teachers were always writing letters to my mother, telling her what a pleasure it was having a boy like Allie in their class. And they weren’t just shooting the crap. They really meant it. But it wasn’t just that he was the most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest, in lots of ways. He never got mad at anybody. <…> God, he was a nice kid, though. He used to laugh so hard at something he thought of at the dinner table that he just about fell off his chair.

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– J. D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield in Chapter 5. Holden cannot understand why his brother Allie who was much cleverer than him died. He feels guilty that he, who lives because he is not sick like Allie was, is stupid and inferior. The baseball glove reminds him of the kind of person his brother was: smart, friendly and inventive. This is the emotion at the center of Holden’s journey throughout the novel.

My brother D.B.’s a writer and all, and my brother Allie, the one that died, that I told you about, was a wizard. I’m the only really dumb one.

– J. D. Salinger


I didn’t want to start an argument. “Okay,” I said. Then I thought of something, all of a sudden. “Hey, listen,” I said. “You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?” I realized it was only one chance in a million. He turned around and looked at me like I was a madman. “What’re ya tryna do, bud?” he said. “Kid me?” “No – I was just interested, that’s all.” He didn’t say anything more, so I didn’t either. Until we came out of the park at Ninetieth Street. Then he said, “All right, buddy. Where to?”

– J. D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye. Chapter 9. Holden asks the cab driver where the ducks go when the lake is frozen over. His fascination with the ducks represents his fear of change. He is terrified by the idea of change, perhaps because of the loss of his brother Allie. Feeling isolated and alone in a period of immense change in his life, Holden looks at the ducks as a reflection of his own life. They are a symbol of the need to adapt and change their environment in order to survive the winter cold.

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.

– J. D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye. Chapter 14, after the prostitute Sunny leaves the hotel room. Holden is haunted daily by his brother Allie’s death. When feeling miserable, he will often turn to his dead brother for help. Rejecting the people around him in the real world, he talks to Allie instead.

I kept walking and walking up Fifth Avenue, without any tie on or anything. Then all of a sudden, something very spooky started happening. Every time I came to the end of a block and stepped off the goddam curb, 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. Boy, did it scare me. You can’t imagine. I started sweating like a bastard – my whole shirt and underwear and everything. Then I started doing something else. Every time I’d get to the end of a block I’d make believe I was talking to my brother Allie. I’d say to him, “Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Allie, don’t let me disappear. Please, Allie.” And then when I’d reach the other side of the street without disappearing, I’d thank him. Then it would start all over again as soon as I got to the next corner. But I kept going and all. I was sort of afraid to stop, I think – I don’t remember, to tell you the truth. I know I didn’t stop till I was way up in the Sixties, past the zoo and all. Then I sat down on this bench. I could hardly get my breath, and I was still sweating like a bastard. I sat there, I guess, for about an hour.

– J. D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye. Chapter 25. Holden is at rock-bottom here. He thinks about his dead brother Allie and his own mortality and pleads with Allie not to let him disappear. Holden has these imaginary conversations with Allie, it is a form of escapism for him.

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

– J. D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye. Chapter 20. Holden is thinking of the time the rain came down when he visited Allie’s grave. It rained on all the visitors and on Allie’s tombstone. Everybody could get inside away from the rain – all except Allie. This speaks to Holden’s sense of powerlessness, that he has no control over his surroundings because life just happens.

When the weather’s nice, my parents go out quite frequently and stick a bunch of flowers on old Allie’s grave. I went with them a couple of times, but I cut it out. In the first place, I don’t enjoy seeing him in that crazy cemetery. Surrounded by dead guys and tombstones and all. It wasn’t too bad when the sun was out, but twice – twice – we were there when it started to rain. It was awful. It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained on the grass on his stomach. It rained all over the place. All the visitors that were visiting the cemetery started running like hell over to their cars. That’s what nearly drove me crazy. All the visitors could get in their cars and turn on their radios and all and then go someplace nice for dinner – everybody except Allie. I couldn’t stand it. I know it’s only his body and all that’s in the cemetery, and his soul’s in Heaven and all that crap, but I couldn’t stand it anyway. I just wished he wasn’t there.

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– J. D. Salinger


The Catcher in the Rye. Holden Caulfield in Chapter 20. Allie’s death is at the heart of Holden’s mental and emotional problems.