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The Catcher in the Rye
by J. D. Salinger
The Two Nuns Timeline and Summary
Holden first meets the two nuns while he's having breakfast on Sunday morning, right after he's made his date with Sally Hayes. He lends a hand with their inexpensive suitcases, which they seem not to know what to do with. Holden notices that the nuns have a straw collecting basket. He asks one of the nuns – who isn't attractive but has a kind face – if he can made a donation. He's depressed about the fact that they're only eating toast and coffee while he's having bacon and eggs. The nuns thank Holden profusely for his ten dollar donation, so much so that he has to change the subject. The nuns reveal that they're from Chicago and in New York to teach at a school uptown. One of them teaches English and the other American Government. The English-teaching nun asks Holden about what he's read in school, and they strike up a conversation about Romeo and Juliet. This disturbs Holden, as he has a hard time with the fact that a nun likes such a sexy play. But he does express his frustration at the fact that Mercutio died when nothing was his fault. The nuns refuse to let Holden pay for their bill when he offers. They thank him for the conversation. When he's leaving, Holden accidentally blows smoke in their face and apologizes for it "like a madman." Once they've parted ways, Holden thinks about how sad it is that nuns never get to go to swanky lunches. Later, when Phoebe asks Holden to name one thing he likes, all he can think about is the nuns and their collection basket (before he delves into the James Castle digression). Towards the end of the novel, Holden looks for the two nuns while he's walking down Fifth Avenue, thinking he might see them somewhere with their collecting basket.