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I'm confused about this sentence from The Catcher in the Rye:

They don't do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school.

I can think of two interpretations:

  1. Other schools do molding students and Pencey doesn't do more than them.

  2. Other schools have never done molding students and Pencey has never done either.

Which is correct?

1

They don't do any damn more molding at Pencey than they do at any other school.

The word "any" has been used in the sentence as an adverb, which means at all, in the least or even by a small amount. "Any more" is a phrase that can be used in comparative sentences. The word "damn" has been used as an adverb to modify and emphasize "more".

So the sentence means that the molding they do at Pencey is not (at all/in the least) more than they do at any other school. In other words, the amount of molding at Pencey is the same as at other schools.

  • Thank you. So doesn't that sentence mean "A not B any more than C D phrase" like <You wouldn't beat up a woman any more than I would beat up a cripple> ?? – littleprince Jan 5 '15 at 7:30
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Both interpretations are possible.

There is also a third: Both Pencey and other schools claim or believe they are molding their students, but their efforts are worthless.

In short, Pencey does no more than any other school does or does not do.

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In this context, I would take the phrase "don't do any damn more" to semantically mean "the same amount".

The subtlety in this turn of phrase is that all schools think or sell that they mould more than other schools.

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