Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye Summary

Meet Holden Caulfield. He's got a lot of attitude and lot of dated profanity, and he wants to tell us all about "this madman stuff" that happened to him "around last Christmas." His story begins on a December Saturday at Pencey Prep School in Pennsylvania, where he's just been given the ax (read: kicked out) for failing all his classes except English. Turns out, getting the ax is a recurring theme in Holden's past.

Back in the dorm, Holden goofs around with Robert Ackley, a pimply and annoying kid. We're introduced to Holden's distinctive red hunting hat, and we meet his roommate, Stradlater, who is a "sexy bastard" getting ready for a date with Jane Gallagher, an old friend (and sort-of romantic interest) of Holden's. Holden is none too happy about this impending date, but agrees anyway to write an English composition for the "moron" Stradlater.

Holden writes about his younger brother Allie, who died three years earlier of leukemia. More specifically, the composition is about Allie's left-handed baseball mitt, which had poems written all over it in green ink (so that Allie would have something to read while out in the field). Holden reveals that on the night Allie died, Holden broke all the windows in the garage with his bare hand. As a result, he still can't make a good fist with his hand.

Stradlater comes back and Holden tries to figure out if anything happened (in the sex sense of "anything") with Jane. Stradlater is evasive, so Holden tackles him and gets the worse end of the scuffle (a bloody nose). He tries to chat with Ackley for company, but ends up so fed up with everyone and everything that he decides to leave Pencey, right then and there. But first, he has to bum around New York for a few days before going home (otherwise his parents will know he's gotten the ax).

In New York, he gets a pretty swank hotel room and then tries to get lucky. And fails. Not to mention that he can't score booze, because he's a minor. Instead, he reminisces about Jane. It's all very innocent: golf, checkers, movies, holding hands, without much sexy stuff.

He then heads off to "Ernie's," where he knows he can drink, but has to leave to avoid an old and annoying acquaintance. Back in his own hotel, he somehow ends up with a prostitute named Sunny in his room. He's more into talking than sex, and Sunny, who's quite young herself, gets confused and leaves his room with a little of Holden's money but no sex. She comes back later with her pimp to get more money, and Holden ends up with a punch in the stomach.

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The next day Holden leaves his hotel, makes a date with an old friend named Sally Hayes, and meets two nuns while he's having breakfast. After he leaves, he buys a record for his little sister, Phoebe, and overhears a boy singing, "If a body catch a body coming through the rye." More on this soon.

Holden heads to the park to kill some time before his date with Sally. He chats with a girl in the park and has some Deep Thoughts about childhood before meeting Sally. He shares his fantasy of running away, living in a log cabin, and doing log-cabin-y things for the rest of his life. When Sally is unsurprisingly not too into this, Holden flips out.

Alone yet again for the evening, Holden calls up an old acquaintance from school, Carl Luce, and arranges to meet him for drinks. At the bar, Carl takes the annoying "I'm soooo mature" attitude, so the night ends early. Well, it ends early for Carl. Holden stays alone at the bar and drinks himself into fuzzy oblivion. After trying to make a date with the coat-check girl, he goes to the park to look for the ducks (he's really into ducks). Seeing no ducks, he heads home to visit his sister Phoebe, who we've been told is the greatest girl in the world.

Phoebe does in fact appear to be the greatest girl in the world. They talk about how depressed Holden is, and he says all he wants to do with his life is be the catcher in the rye—if there were a bunch of children playing in a field of rye next to a big cliff, he'd be the guy to catch them before they go off the edge. Phoebe informs him that the "song" he heard about the catcher in the rye is actually a poem by Robert Burns, and it's about bodies meeting bodies, not catching bodies.

Next on Holden's visiting list is Mr. Antolini, an old teacher. This visit ends badly, when Mr. Antolini maybe comes on to him. Holden bolts, and spends a really depressing night in the train station. After this, Holden decides to run away. He tells Phoebe via a note, and she decides she wants to come, too. No way, says Holden. Phoebe gets angry and pulls a "Fine, I'm not talking to you anymore."

Fortunately, being mad at someone doesn't mean you won't go to the zoo with them, which she does. They end up at the carousel, where Holden promises Phoebe that he won't run away after all. As he watches her go around and around on the carousel, he declares he's happy. Hey, that's a first!

At last, we pull out of the narrative and back to the Holden of one year later, the one who was telling us this story. He's clearly in therapy for getting "sick" in some way. He says he's supposed to go back to school in September, but he's not sure whether or not things will be any different (that is, any better) this time around. He concludes that he sort of wishes he hadn't told us this story at all, since relating it makes him miss all the people he'd met.

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  • Chapter 1

    • We start out with some attitude: "If you really want to hear about it."
    • Well, we didn’t exactly ask—but, sure. Go ahead!
    • The first thing you hear from this young guy is that his parents wouldn't want him to tell you about his personal life. Doesn't matter. He's going to tell us all about "this madman stuff" that happened last Christmas.
    • He says he's got a brother named D.B. who's out in Hollywood "being a prostitute," which we know means "writing scripts," since D.B. used to write short stories (such as "The Secret Goldfish," a tale about a boy who wouldn't let anyone else look at his pet goldfish).
    • Anyway, the narrator hates "phonies," which is what his brother is now since he made "a lot of dough" and bought a Jaguar.
    • Um, if that's being a phony, sign us up.
    • Our narrator also hates the movies. He hates a lot of things, so get used to it.


    • Back to this story of "last Christmas." The narrator says he'll start off with day he left Pencey Prep. Pencey is an annoying, snobby East-coast prep school in Pennsylvania. Sooooo phony.
    • The day in question is a Saturday, and Pencey is hosting a big-deal football game against rival Saxon Hall. Buuut… our narrator doesn't feel like watching the game (shock!), so he hangs out up on a hill and watches the crowd from a distance.
    • He digresses about Selma Thurmer, the headmaster's daughter and the only girl around the place. Her father is a "bastard," the narrator says, but at least she knows it. She also wears "falsies" (fake breasts), which is… relevant?
    • So why isn't our narrator watching the football game? It seems he is (1) the manager of the fencing team, and (2) the guy who, earlier this Saturday, left all the fencing equipment on the subway.
    • Avoiding a mob of angry fencers sounds like a pro strategy to us.
    • There's one more reason: the narrator wants to go say good-bye to his history teacher, Mr. Spencer, before he (the narrator) leaves the school.
    • And why is he leaving the school?
    • Oh, he just failed all his classes, no big deal.
    • It sounds like "getting the ax" is something our narrator is pretty familiar with.
    • So now he's hanging around on the hill, freezing because some "crook" at school stole his camel hair coat (fancy!), and trying to feel some sort of good-bye for the place.
    • In order to get the emotion of a proper good-bye, the narrator reminisces about tossing around a football with two friends of his one evening on campus. They played even after it was too dark to see.
    • This kicks up the proper nostalgia, so he heads off toward Mr. Spencer's—but not too fast. Running proves difficult for this "heavy smoker."
    • We get another hint as to where the narrator is in the present time (as he's telling us this story about leaving Pencey last Christmas): he reveals that last year he "grew six and a half inches" and "practically got t.b." and "came out here for all these goddamn checkups and stuff."
    • We're thinking he's in some sort of institution or hospital.
    • When he gets to the Spencers', Mrs. Spencer greets him by name: Holden.
  • Chapter 2

    • The Spencers are old, about seventy.
    • Also, Holden's last name is Caulfield. Holden Caulfield. (Want to hear some thoughts about his name? Check out his "Character Analysis.")
    • As soon as Holden makes it into Mr. Spencer's room, he has second thoughts.
    • Mr. Spencer is reading the Atlantic Monthly, surrounded by Vicks Nose Drops, and wearing a ratty bathrobe.
    • Hey, give the guy a break—he has the flu (the grippe).
    • They talk about Mr. Thurmer, the headmaster, and the way he told Holden that life is a game.
    • Holden's not quite buying it. It's only a game, he thinks, if you're on the side of all the hot-shots.
    • We also learn some key info: this is the fourth school Holden's been booted from; he says "boy!" a lot; he was sixteen during all this; he has gray hair; and he acts like he's twelve—except when he doesn't.
    • Mr. Spencer picks his nose.
    • Nice.
    • Just when he decides he'd better get out because Mr. Spencer's about to start lecturing him, it starts. (The lecture, that is.)
    • Mr. Spencer wants to know what's wrong with Holden, and our narrator admits that he failed four classes.
    • In fact, the only reason he passed English is because he'd read all the books before, at another school (before he was kicked out of that one).
    • Spencer then resorts to a low blow: he makes Holden read his final exam essay (in history) out loud. It's a bunch of hooey about Egyptians and ends with a note that (roughly speaking) says, "I know this is junk, so it's cool if you flunk me."
    • After really ticking Holden off with this move, Spencer wants to know why Holden left his previous schools.
    • Holden isn't very forthcoming to his history teacher, but he tells us that he left because he was "surrounded by phonies" and the headmaster was a "bastard." Sound familiar?
    • Does Holden have any concerns for his future. Because he will, someday—when it's too late.
    • Apparently this is depressing.
    • Holden gets out of there after that. As he heads out the front door he thinks he hears Spencer yelling something like "Good luck!" after him.
    • This, of course, is also depressing.
  • Chapter 3

    • Uh-oh. Holden's a liar. In fact, he's "the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life."
    • Okay, so… can we believe any of this?
    • After a short discourse on lying, Holden moves on to tell us that he lives in a dormitory donated by an alumnus named Ossenburger, who made all his money with cheap funeral parlors.
    • Holden doesn't like the guy (Ossenburger came to Pencey to give a big, "corny speech" about praying to Jesus).
    • In fact, the only good part of the speech was when someone in the audience let one rip.
    • Back in his dorm, Holden and puts on a red hunting cap—he's partial to the thing and wears it with the peak swung around to the back.
    • No wonder this guy has trouble fitting in.
    • Time to relax. Holden chills out for a while by reading Out of Africa, which he got by mistake from the library.
    • Naturally, that means it's time for a discourse on books. Holden's brother D.B. is his favorite author (or Ring Lardner, who writes sports-related stories), but mostly Holden just likes books where you can laugh once in a while.
    • You know, books that, after you read them, you wish the author was a friend of yours that you could just call up and talk to. (Like, say, Catcher in the Rye?)
    • Holden wouldn't mind calling up old Thomas Hardy, which honestly makes us doubt his sanity. Again.
    • Anyway, a few pages into Out of Africa, this guy Robert Ackley busts in. He's a tall guy with dirty teeth and pimples.
    • After making sure Holden's roommate (Stradlater) isn't there, Ackley settles in for a good heart-to-heart.
    • Holden isn't interested.
    • So, Ackley does the next best thing: walk around Holden's room, pick up all his stuff, and put it back in the wrong place.
    • One such item is Holden's picture of a girl he "used to go around with" named Sally Hayes. (This is basically the equivalent of an "It's Complicated" Facebook status: it was somewhere between "hanging out" and "exchanging class rings.")
    • Holden finally gives up starts "horsing around," a.k.a. pulling a hunting cap over his eyes and pretending to be blind.
    • Remind us how he said he sometimes acts like he's twelve.
    • Ackley asks about Holden's red hat, informing him that it's a deer-hunting hat.
    • Nope, says Holden; it's a people-shooting hat. (This would earn you a quick visit from the police today, but apparently times were simpler back then.)
    • Ackley proceeds to cut his toenails and leave the clippings all over the floor. Ew.
    • The boys go back to talking about Stradlater, who is out on a date. Ackley is really not a fan of this guy, but it seems the reason is because Stradlater told him he should really brush his teeth once in a while.
    • Lay off him, says Holden. He might be conceited, but, if Stradlater were wearing a tie you really liked, he'd just take it off and give it to you.
    • (Clue #129 that times were different: teenage guys talk about wearing ties like it's an everyday thing.)
    • Speak of the devil, here comes Stradlater to ask for Holden's hound's-tooth jacket.
    • Ackley takes off and Holden gives up his jacket, asking Stradlater not to stretch it out with his "goddamn shoulders," which are apparently broad. Swoon!
    • Stradlater takes off his shirt and tie so he can have a shave and show off his fantastic body, like, OKAY, Taylor, we get it. You have excellent muscular development.
    • Meanwhile, his date is waiting in the annex.
  • Chapter 4

    • Holden, who doesn't have anything better to do, goes along with Stradlater to the bathroom to bug him while he (Stradlater) shaves and whistles. Badly.
    • Stradlater is a "secret slob"—he always looks put together and smells nice and all that jazz, but secret things, like his razor blade, are all crumby and filled with hair and rust. Ew.
    • Sure, Stradlater is cute, but mostly in the good-yearbook-photo way. (Wait, that's not enough?)
    • By the way, Stradlater needs a big favor. Eye roll. Hotshot people who are in love with themselves always need a big favor, Holden remarks (to us, not Stradlater).
    • Anyway, the big favor is that Stradlater needs Holden to write him a composition, but not a good one. Just a so-so one—not one with the commas all in the right place.
    • Eye roll #2. Holden hates it when people like Stradlater try to pretend the only reason they're bad at English essays is commas, when really they're just not good at, you know, English.
    • Anyway, Holden responds by doing a tap dance like you see in the movies, which he hates but gets a bang (his words) out of imitating.
    • He makes a point of telling us that Stradlater laughs.
    • Stradlater compliments the red hunting hat, but only so he can butter up Holden to ask him again to write his English composition (which has to describe something—anything).
    • Holden asks about a girl (Fitzgerald) that Stradlater was dating at one point. Stradlater says she's too old for Holden, and Holden responds by trying to put Stradlater in a half nelson.
    • Stradlater ("a very strong guy") pushes Holden ("a very weak guy") away.
    • Back to the girl-talk. Stradlater says his date's name is Jean Gallagher, and Holden "nearly [drops] dead."
    • See, her name isn't Jean—it's Jane, and Holden practically grew up next door to her.
    • Stradlater obviously knows nothing about this girl, but Holden goes on about how she used to dance ballet when she was little, and how, when they played checkers, she would never move her kings from the back row because "she […] liked the way they looked."
    • Holden admits that most people aren't interested in such details. Stradlater is obviously a member of that majority.
    • Stradlater gives Holden the go-ahead to run down and say hello, but instead Holden sticks around and talks about Jane's stepfather, an alcoholic who used to run around the house naked all the time.
    • Now Stradlater's interested.
    • Holden tells him to give his regards to Jane, but he knows Stradlater is the kind of guy that never does give regards, even when you make a point of asking him to.
    • What does Stradlater plan on doing with Jane on their date, anyway?
    • Not much—she only signed out of her dorm (at her own nearby boarding school) until 9:30pm.
    • Of course, this irritates Holden, who figures Stradlater is probably thinking that if Jane knew what a "sexy bastard" she was going on a date with, she probably would have signed out until three in the morning.
    • That’s… pretty much exactly what Stradlater is thinking. He reminds Holden about the essay and heads out of the bathroom.
    • Holden's actually relieved when Ackley comes back (pimple-picking and all), because it gives him something to do other than think about Stradlater potentially gettin' busy with Jane.
  • Chapter 5

    • On Saturday night, the boys at Pencey always get steak for dinner.
    • Why? Parents visit on Sunday, so, when they ask their son what he had for dinner last night, he'll say "steak."
    • Holden and his friend Mal Brossard take the bus into town for the night. He convinces Mal to let Ackley come along with them, because otherwise the kid will sit in his room and pick his pimples all night. What a pal.
    • It's snowing (since it's December in Pennsylvania), and Holden packs a snowball.
    • He tries to throw it at about ten different objects but keeps changing his mind, and finally just carries it around until they get on the bus and the driver tells him to ditch it. We're pretty sure this is symbolic.
    • They don't end up going to the movie theater after all, since Mal and Ackley already saw it and Holden doesn't like watching movies with people who laugh at stuff that isn't even funny.
    • Gee, Holden, just because you have no sense of humor…
    • When they get back to the dorm, Ackley sits on Holden's bed and picks his pimples and won't leave after a barrage of hints that, really, he should leave. Now. Ackley then proceeds to tell a fake sex story (and we can tell it's fake because it contains inconsistencies).
    • Finally, he gets out of there. Holden puts on his jammies, a bathrobe, and his red hunting hat to write Stradlater's composition.
    • It's supposed to be a descriptive work, but Holden can't think of a room or a house or anything like that. All he can think of is his brother Allie's baseball mitt.
    • Allie was left-handed and (accordingly) had a left-handed fielder's mitt. The thing about it is that it was covered in poems that Allie had written on in green ink so that he'd have something to do while hanging around in the ballfield (that is, read the poems).
    • Allie's dead now, Holden tells us. He died from leukemia in 1946 (which we can infer to be three years before the events taking place, and four years before Holden's telling us this story).
    • Here's what Holden tells us about Allie: he was intelligent and good-natured and had red hair—the kind you could see from a mile away. He used to laugh so hard he'd fall off his chair.
    • Oh, and the night that Allie died, he (Holden) went into the garage and broke all the windows with his fist—"just for the hell of it."
    • He tried to break all the windows on the car, too, but unfortunately he'd already broken his hand. He still can't make a good fist, but it's cool. It's not like he's going to be a violinist or anything.
    • Listening to Ackley snoring, Holden feels "a little sorry for the crazy sonuvabitch."
  • Chapter 6

    • It's still Saturday night. Holden is awake and worrying about Jane and the possibility of roomie Stradlater getting it on with her.
    • Stradlater finally comes back, returns the hound's-tooth jacket, and notably says nothing about his date.
    • He reads the English composition Holden wrote for him and complains that it's not about a room or a house or something like he said. He berates Holden for doing everything "a-s-backward" and says this is exactly why he (Holden) is flunking out.
    • Fine. Holden rips it up and throws away the only copy, which really ticks off Stradlater. (Back in these days, people had to use little things called typewriters—no writing it in Google Drive and saving it to the cloud, or what have you.)
    • Then, to really tick off his roomie, Holden lights up a cigarette. It's against the rules, and Stradlater never breaks any rules.
    • Finally, he asks about Jane. Pretty late to be getting back, isn't it?
    • Stradlater cuts his toenails and doesn't really address the question. (What is it with these boys and cutting their toenails?)
    • Finally, he says he didn't go anywhere with Jane—they just hung out in a car. Ed Banky's car, actually (he's the basketball coach, who likes Stradlater because he's on the team and isn't a terrible player).
    • So, what, did they do it in Banky's car?
    • Apparently Stradlater doesn't kiss and tell, which we'd think is a good thing—but Holden flips out and tries to hit him.
    • It's clear that Stradlater doesn't want to hurt him, but he's also not going to take this lying down (or kneeling, as he is on Holden's chest).
    • After a lot of name-calling (on Holden's part) Stradlater smacks Holden a good one in the nose, resulting in quite the bloody mess.
    • Holden just keeps sobbing and calling him a moron. He sits on the floor until Stradlater leaves the room, then puts on his hunting hat and stares at himself in the mirror.
    • Well, that went well.
  • Chapter 7

    • Holden heads over to Ackley's room and is all, "How about playing Canasta?" and Ackley is all, "Stop bleeding all over my room."
    • Because Ackley's roommate Ely is out of town, Holden asks to sleep in his bed, probably so he doesn't have to go back and face Stradlater.
    • Ackley refuses, since he doesn't know what time his roommate is going to get back.
    • He does want to know what the fight was about, however. Holden has a smart answer for this (of course): he was defending Ackley's honor to his roommate.
    • Holden lies in Ely's bed anyway and thinks about Jane—more specifically, about Jane with Stradlater in the back of Ed Banky's car. See, most of the guys at Pencey just talk about sex, but Stradlater actually does it.
    • Like this one night, he double-dated with Stradlater in the very same car. Holden was in the front with his date and Stradlater in the back with his.
    • All night, he could hear Stradlater coercing his date, with a very quiet, sincere voice, while she said things like "No—please. Please don't" and so on and so forth.
    • Hm. That is… troubling. No wonder Holden was so upset.
    • By now, Ackley has fallen asleep. Holden wakes him up and asks him what's the deal with joining a monastery, and if you have to be Catholic to do it. Ugh, he'd probably join the wrong kind of monastery, anyway—the kind with a bunch of "stupid bastards."
    • Ackley isn't pleased about attack on his religion (we now know he's Catholic—he talked earlier about going to Mass the next day, Sunday), so Holden leaves snippily.
    • Way to alienate all your friends, dude.
    • Walking down the empty (and depressing, natch) dorm corridor, Holden figures it's a good time to leave.
    • He packs up quickly, only pausing to get depressed about the ice skates that his mother sent him a few days earlier. Apparently presents make him sad, especially when they're the wrong kind.
    • Holden sits down to count up his money.
    • He's got a decent chunk since his grandmother just sent him money for his birthday, which she does about four times a year. Aw. Love grandmas! And, after selling his ninety-dollar typewriter down the hall for twenty bucks, he's got a little more.
    • Just as he's leaving, Holden, "sort of crying," puts on his red hunting hat and yells down the corridor at the top of his lungs, "Sleep tight, ya morons!" He almost trips on some peanut shells one of those morons left all over the stairs.
    • Can't a guy even sneak out of his fourth prep school with any dignity?
  • Chapter 8

    • Holden walks in the cold to the train station. He likes trains at night, since it's the only time he can read those dumb stories in the cheap magazines without puking.
    • He takes his hat off. (Are you paying attention to this hat? We certainly are.)
    • On the train, Holden strikes up conversation with an attractive older woman on the train, whose son, Ernest Morrow, goes to his school.
    • Ernest, of course, is the biggest jerk in the history of mankind—but Holden lies to the woman, telling her his own name is Rudolf Schmidt (the janitor in his dorm) and going on and on about what a wonderful boy Ernest is.
    • Holden offers the woman a cigarette and then admires the way she smokes.
    • She asks about Holden's nose (which has just started bleeding again), and he tells her he got hit in the face by a snowball.
    • He makes up more stories about what a wonderful guy Ernest is and offers to buy Mrs. Ernest's Mom a drink. She gives him the, "Um, what are you, twelve?" in the nicest way possible.
    • Why is Holden is going home for Christmas so early (it's Saturday, and the kids are supposed to leave Wednesday), anyway?
    • She looks worried, which Holden says means really she's just nosy. So, he gives her something to nose about: he says he has to have an operation to remove a tumor on his brain. He then has to start reading a timetable he's got in his pocket because it's the only way he can stop himself from lying.
    • The woman goes back to reading Vogue, but before they part ways, she invites Holden (or Rudolf) to come visit her son Ernest in Massachusetts sometime during the summer.
    • Aw, too bad he has to go to South America with his grandmother this summer. Bummer!
  • Chapter 9

    • Holden gets off at Penn Station (in New York City) and decides to give someone a buzz on the payphone. (LOL payphones! No wonder teenagers can't relate to this book anymore.)
    • But…who to call? His brother D.B.? His kid sister Phoebe? Jane Gallagher's mother? This girl Sally Hayes he used to go around with?
    • Sally recently wrote Holden a "long, phony letter," the gist of which was an invitation to help trim her Christmas tree.
    • Uh, we think that might be a euphemism.
    • Unfortunately, Sally's mother thinks Holden is "wild" and would have a conniption if he called her house, not to mention she'd call Holden's mother and blab about how he's in New York four days early, which means he got kicked out of school, which his parents don't know yet.
    • So he ends up not calling anyone. Of course.
    • Instead, Holden gets a cab and accidentally gives his home address. About halfway there, he remembers he can't go home until Wednesday.
    • Then he asks the driver about the ducks in the lagoon near Central Park: he wants to know where they go in the winter when the water freezes over.
    • The driver obviously has no idea, so Holden decides to act just as corny as this guy. He has the driver take him to the Edmont Hotel, and then invites him for a drink.
    • The driver turns him down. We're shocked.


    • He takes his hunting cap off before going into the lobby, so as to not look like a "screwball," even though he later found out there were "screwballs all over the place."
    • Holden feels bad for the 65-year-old man who has the "crumby" job of carrying his suitcases up the room.
    • Well, it's better than being a whiny high school dropout, HOLDEN.
    • On the other side of the hotel, he sees distinguished-looking gentleman putting on women's fine clothing and prancing about in high-heels. Um, what?
    • In the room above that, he sees a man and a woman squirting water out of their mouths at each other.
    • Um, what?
    • Stradlater, Holden thinks, would have been the King of a sexed-up, pervy place like this.
    • Which gets us right into a little digression on sex. The woman across the hotel is really attractive. He could go for some water-squirting himself, come to think of it.
    • Except the idea stinks. Holden says if you really care about a girl, you shouldn't horse around with her at all in such a crumby way. (Crumby = dirty, from what we can tell.)
    • He used to know a "crumby" girl himself, so crumby that he made a rule not to horse around with any girls anymore, which lasted about ten minutes.
    • Either way, he "doesn't understand" sex.
    • Uh, we're getting the idea that Holden has some real issues with sex.
    • Holden contemplates calling Jane at her school. It's late, so he has a whole story planned out to tell whomever picks up the phone (it involves an uncle and a dead woman).
    • Holden's "felling pretty horny" by now, so he gets his wallet and digs out the address of a girl who isn't "exactly a whore or anything," but always good for a fun time. He got said address from a guy he knows that goes to Princeton.
    • So he calls up this girl, Faith Cavendish, tells her he's a friend of this Princeton guy Eddie, tries to make his voice sound deeper than it is, and asks her out for a cocktail.
    • She's all, "Hmm, how about tomorrow?" and Holden is all, "Now or never!" so the upshot of the whole deal is that Holden gets nothing. Shocking.
  • Chapter 10

    • Holden changes his shirt so he can go downstairs to the Lavender Room. He wishes he could call his little sister Phoebe, except it's late and she's probably sleeping.
    • Apparently Phoebe is the smartest kid ever. Actually, so is D.B., and so was Allie, so Holden is the only one who isn't, he tells us.
    • Phoebe's ten and "roller-skate skinny." The good thing about her is that she always knows what you're talking about and can tell the difference between a good movie and a bad one. She's very emotional, he adds, and writes short stories about a girl named Hazel ("Hazle," she spells it).
    • Basically, she's amazing and "really kills" Holden and in fact anybody with any sense.
    • Holden makes it down to the Lavender Room, hates the band, but doesn't mind the blonde across the room.
    • He tries to order a drink and once again gets the old "What are you, twelve?" So he ends up with a coke.
    • Holden goes back to eyeing the blonde, who's sitting at a table with two other giggling women. He finally walks over and asks if anyone would like to dance, even though the three of them are a bunch of "morons."
    • The blonde is a good dancer, but a moron. She just drones on about how she and her girlfriends saw an actor, Peter Lorre, buying a newspaper the other night.
    • Holden, still impressed with her dancing, if not her conversational abilities, kisses her on the top of "her dopey head," which irritates the girl.
    • He asks her where she's from (Seattle), and tells her (sarcastically) that she's a good conversationalist. She doesn't get it, so he lets it go.
    • When she asks how old he is, Holden swears and then has to apologize for his language.
    • Ugh, girls. Every time they do something cute he ends up half in love with them, even though they're "sort of stupid."
    • Love ya too, Holds.
    • He sits down with the ladies and says his name is Jim Steele. And he still thinks they're idiots.
    • The cute blonde is named Bernice, and other two girls (Marty and Laverne) are not attractive. Our smooth operator manages to insult both of them by asking if they're sisters, since apparently neither wants to think she's as unattractive as the other.
    • Holden ends up dancing with all three of them and amusing himself by pretending to see movie stars all over the place. As in, "Look! Gary Cooper! Aw, you just missed him."
    • Finally, they all take off and stick Holden with the tab—thirteen bucks, which was a lot back then (remember, he sold his typewriter for twenty).
    • Mostly, he's depressed that they came all the way from Seattle, Washington to wear ugly hats and get up early the next morning to see the first show at Radio City Music Hall. It's possibly the most depressing thing he's ever heard.
    • (We're thinking that's because he's never read his own book, because we're pretty sure this is the most depressing thing we've ever heard.)
    • So he leaves.
  • Chapter 11

    • Back in the lobby, Holden starts thinking about Jane Gallagher sitting in Ed Banky's car with Stradlater.
    • He never hooked up with Jane himself, but they did hang out a lot.
    • The met when Holden's mother called up her family to complain that their dog kept peeing on their lawn. A few days later, when Holden tried to say hello to Jane, she was an ice princess about it.
    • After he convinced her that he personally didn't care where the dog relieved itself, they ended up going golfing together.
    • Then he gets into a nice long description about this girl. She's not exactly beautiful, he says, but she really knocks him out, especially the way her mouth moves when she talks. She's the only person to whom he's ever shown Allie's baseball mitt.
    • Holden's mother doesn't like Jane, probably because she doesn't like her mom.
    • OK, so there was this one afternoon where he and Jane almost hooked up. It was a rainy Saturday and they were playing checkers on her porch. Her drunk stepfather came out and asked Jane if there were any cigarettes. She refused to look up or answer, even when he asked repeatedly.
    • After he went back into the house, Jane started crying. Holden moved over so sit right next to her and started kissing her everywhere—her nose, eyes, ears—everywhere except her mouth.
    • They ended up going out for a movie, and Holden asked if the stepfather (Mr. Cudahy) had ever tried anything with her. (Good call; we were wondering that ourselves.)
    • But she says no, and he's never really figured out what the deal was.
    • They just held hands. Jane is an excellent hand-holder.
    • Which reminds him of this time in the movie theater. Jane reached over and put her hand on the back of his neck. It's something you always see older people do, Holden remarks, like a mother to her husband or her kid or something, but when a girl Jane's age does it, "it's so pretty it just about kills you."
    • Anyway, the lobby is getting depressing, so he decides to head to Greenwich Village, where D.B. used to take him once in a while to listen to this guy Ernie play the piano.
  • Chapter 12

    • Holden gets into a "vomity" cab with a driver named Horwitz. He asks his question about the ducks and where they go in the winter, but Horwitz doesn't know.
    • He does know that the fish stay right where they are. Their pores open up, he insists, and they take in nutrients from all the seaweed and stuff around them, even while they're frozen right there in place.
    • Uh, okay. We're not fish expects, but that sounds (ahem) fishy to us. (And to these guys.)
    • As Holden exits the cab (after Horwitz turns him down for a drink), Horwitz insists that the fish are taken care of, because Mother Nature wouldn't leave them to fend for themselves. He's quite worked up about the whole thing.
    • At Ernie's, everyone is intently listening to the piano. The crowd is just a bunch of morons, the kind who laugh at movies that aren't funny. You know.
    • Ernie even bows, which Holden finds disgusting. Question: is there anything that this kid doesn't find disgusting?
    • Apparently, scotch and soda: no matter how old you are, Holden says, you can always drink at Ernie's.
    • Holden listens in on some conversation. On one side, a guy is giving the girl a play-by-play of the last football game he was in. She has to listen, says Holden, because she's not attractive. (Apparently, pretty girls never have to listen to boring conversation.)
    • On his other side is a very preppy, good-looking couple. To be exact, they are a "Joe Yale-looking-guy" and a "terrific looking girl with him."
    • (By the way, Holden informs us, he wouldn't go to Yale or Princeton even if he were dying, which makes absolutely no sense, because how would going to an Ivy League school save you from dying?)
    • He's feeling her up under the table while talking about this guy in his dorm that committed suicide, which … shows poor taste. To say the least. Not to mention, she doesn’t seem too into it.
    • As a better alternative to watching this display, Holden sends a message via the waiter asking Ernie to join him for a drink.
    • Just then a girl with a terrific body named Lillian Simmons greets Holden by name and comes over to this table.
    • She used to date Holden's brother D.B., and now she's with a naval officer.
    • Lillian asks about D.B. and introduces her date. Too bad about that terrific body, because nobody really likes this girl, even the guy who's dating her.
    • Holden resents having to say, "Glad you have met you" to the naval guy who he isn't remotely glad to have met.
    • Then he lies (of course) and says he has to leave to meet someone.
    • Gee, it's too bad the Internet hasn't been invented yet. We get the feeling Holden would be a lot happier trolling Internet message boards than wandering around Manhattan hating everyone.
  • Chapter 13

    • Holden walks 41 blocks back to his hotel, on the grounds that sometimes, you just feel like walking. True that.
    • It's cold, so he puts his hunting hat back on, noting that he doesn't care how he looks.
    • Too bad he doesn't have his gloves, which someone at Pencey stole.
    • It's also too bad that he's kind of a coward. Even if he did know who stole his gloves, he wouldn't have had the guts to beat the guy up like he deserved.
    • Anyway, he'd much rather push someone out a window than sock them in the jaw.
    • Wow. Talk about escalating violence.
    • Heading into yet another bar for yet another drink (#4, if you're keeping count), Holden assures us he has a great tolerance for alcohol. He puked once, but only because he wanted to. Not because he had to.
    • Uh-huh. Pretty sure we've heard that one.
    • He changes his mind, though, when he sees some smelly, drunk men coming out of the bar. Holden ends up back at the (depressing) hotel.
    • As soon as he gets into the elevator, the elevator man asks him if he's up for a good time.
    • Actually, the elevator man wants to set him up with a woman. And by "set up," we mean he wants to pimp out a prostitute for five bucks.
    • Holden, who by the way has told the elevator man he is 22, says sure. When he gets back to his room, he changes his shirt and brushes his teeth. Classy!
    • Actually, now that the time has come, Holden informs us he's a virgin. Not that he hasn't had a few opportunities, it's just that he never got around to it.
    • The problem is, most girls always tell you to stop. Most guys just keep going, but Holden actually stops.
    • Um, we find this extremely disturbing.
    • Anyway, he figures that now is the chance to get in some practice.
    • Right on time, the girl shows up at his door. She's not bad-looking, and asks Holden if he's the guy that Maurice (the elevator man) is sending her to.
    • When Holden confirms, she takes off her coat and sits down on his bed in her green dress. She looks nervous, probably because she's about Holden's age.
    • Holden introduces himself as Jim Steele, and the prostitute, obviously not one for the chit-chat, takes her dress off.
    • This, of course, only makes Holden even more nervous.
    • He asks her for her name (Sunny—we're guessing not her real name) and then wants to know if they can just chat for a while.
    • She's all "whatever" and asks him to hang up her dress in the closet. This depresses Holden, since he can imagine her buying it in a store where no one knew that she was really a prostitute, like maybe he'd feel better if he'd stop imagining these depressing scenarios.
    • Sunny is a bad conversationalist and just wants to get the sex over with already.
    • Holden's not up for it, so he makes up a story about having had a recent operation on his clavichord, which isn't so much a part of the body as it is a musical instrument. Sunny doesn't know this, of course.
    • She does, however, think Holden is cute, much like a guy in the movies. So she sits in his lap.
    • When he doesn't immediately throw her down and go at it, she gets irritated. She demands the money, so Holden gives her the five dollars that Maurice said it would cost.
    • Sunny ups the price to ten, and then basically storms out the door when he refuses.
  • Chapter 14

    • Holden is depressed. We're surprised. (Not.)
    • He smokes some cigarettes, watches the dawn, and talks aloud to his brother Allie, which he sometimes does when he's feeling not-so-great.
    • This leads us into another reminiscence, this time about an incident with one of Holden's childhood friends, Bobby Fallon. Allie wanted to go with the two boys (Holden and Bobby) to play, and Holden said no, since Allie was too little.
    • He regrets this now, so he keeps saying out loud to Allie, "Okay. Go home and get your bike and meet me in front of Bobby's house."
    • In bed, Holden wishes he could pray, but he's sort of an atheist. Apparently the disciples annoy him, because they were so useless to Jesus.
    • He used to argue about it all the time with a Quaker named Arthur Childs in one of the prep schools he attended.
    • Holden feels pretty sure that Jesus wouldn't have sent Judas to hell, even though the guy betrayed him. So the disciples never even got what they deserved.
    • In fact, all the kids in his family are atheists, and that if there's one thing he can't stand, it's a minister, since they always give sermons in phony voices.
    • Knock knock knock.
    • Oh, hey! It's Maurice and Sunny at the door, and they want five more dollars.
    • Holden refuses, as they told him it would only cost five. They argue a bit, and Sunny finally takes Holden's wallet off dresser and removes the money.
    • Holden starts to cry. Maurice gives him a shove, and Sunny says to leave the kid alone.
    • In a spectacular demonstration of how not to improve a situation, Holden calls Maurice a "goddam dirty moron."
    • When asked to repeat it, Holden obliges. With more adjectives.
    • Maurice punches him hard in the stomach. Holden staggers around and into the bathroom, pretending (in his own mind) that he's taken a bullet to the gut and is dying. He imagines coming back at Maurice with an automatic, calling Jane, and having her bandage up his guts.
    • Disgusted with himself, Holden notes that the movies can really ruin you. Heard that!
    • Getting back into bed, Holden says he'd jump out the window, if he wouldn't end up with a bunch of rubbernecks staring at his gory body.
  • Chapter 15

    • Holden wakes up around 10, smokes some cigarettes, and thinks about Jane. Basically, nothing has changed in the past 8-10 hours.
    • He does end up giving Sally Hayes a call. He says she's not too smart, but he got tricked into thinking so for a while since she knew a lot about theater and literature and all that stuff. Also, he spent a lot of time making out with her, which can obscure the facts.
    • Once has her on the phone, they set a date to see a matinee. Then she tells him all about these boys who are just crazy over her, which is a less than tactful thing to do.
    • After he hangs up, Holden looks out his window at the "perverts" across the way, but they all have their shades pulled down.
    • It's only Sunday and he knows he can't go home for a few more days. So, he gets in a cab and heads for Grand Central Station.
    • He counts his money and realizes he's spent a ton since he left school, which is nothing new, but still makes him feel bad. We also get some insight here into Holden's family—it seems his father does in fact make a lot of money, as a corporation (corporate) lawyer.
    • After dropping his bags off, Holden has a light breakfast at a counter. Turns out, the reason he's so skinny is that he never eats enough.
    • Good to know? We guess?
    • Holden lends a hand to two nuns nearby who don't seem to know what to do with their cheap suitcases.
    • Which leads Holden into a digression about … inexpensive suitcases.
    • At Elkton Hills (one of his many previous boarding schools), Holden roomed with a guy named Dick Slagle who had very inexpensive suitcases. Shameful, right?
    • Well, Dick thought so. He was so embarrassed about it that he used to keep them under the bed instead of on the luggage rack.
    • Of course, this was depressing to Holden, who himself had very expensive suitcases. So he put his under the bed, too.
    • The funny thing is, Dick kept taking Holden's suitcases out and putting them back on the rack so that people would think they were his.
    • But—he also kept insulting them, calling them "bourgeois."
    • Sheesh. You really can't please some people.
    • Obviously, both of them ended up getting new roommates.
    • Wise words from Holden: it's hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs.
    • Back to the nuns: one of them is carrying one of those Salvation Army-type baskets for other people to donate money.
    • He asks if they're taking up a collection, as he would make a contribution. He's mostly depressed that they're eating toast and coffee while he's eating bacon and eggs.
    • He finally gives them ten dollars, though they keep asking if he's sure he can afford to do that.
    • The nuns, in addition to being nuns, are schoolteachers from Chicago who have just come to New York.
    • One of the nuns teaches English, and Holden wonders how she feels about the sexy bits of books she has to teach. You know, since she's a nun.
    • So they start talking about English (Holden's best subject), and we get a nice list of the books he's read: Beowulf, Lord Randal My Son, Return of the Native, Romeo and Juliet, etc.
    • Some of Shmoop's favorites!
    • The nun gets all excited about Romeo and Juliet, which Holden thinks isn't exactly nun-appropriate. But he indulges in a discussion of it anyway.
    • What bothered him most in the play wasn't when Romeo and Juliet died; it was when Mercutio died. (Us too!)
    • Holden tries to pay the nuns' bill, but the women won't let him.
    • In retrospect, the conversation was actually a little stressful, since he was afraid they were going to ask him if he was Catholic.
    • His father was Catholic at one point, he tells us.
    • He remembers a kid named Louis Shaney who was cool to talk to until Louis tried to subtly find out if he was Catholic.
    • Just like the suitcases.
    • After accidentally blowing smoke in the nuns' face as they say goodbye, Holden apologizes, is embarrassed, and generally feels depressed by the whole thing, especially the money part.
  • Chapter 16

    • Holden keeps thinking about the collection basket as he heads off to meet Sally for their date.
    • He pictures the different people he knows having to hold a collection basket. Sally's mother would only do it if everyone had to kiss her butt to make a contribution, and then she'd go to a swanky lunch. But the nuns never get to go to a swanky lunch.
    • Holden heads to Broadway to try look for a record for his sister Phoebe, "Little Shirley Beans." It's about a kid who lost her two front teeth and is too embarrassed to leave her house.
    • On the way, he sees a sort of poor-looking family come out of church and walk in front of him. The mother and father aren't really paying attention to their six-year-old kid, who's singing, "If a body catch a body coming through the rye."
    • This makes Holden feel a wee bit less depressed, for some reason.
    • He makes it to a crowded Broadway street by about noon, irritated by the fact that everyone so obviously wants to go the shows.
    • Apparently, it's one thing to go to a show if there's nothing else to do, but actually wanting to go is nuts.
    • Holden makes it to a record store and pays five dollars for an apparently rare copy of "Little Shirley Beans."
    • He then makes it into a phone booth to call Jane, but hangs up when her mother answers the phone.
    • Instead, he buys orchestra seats for a show called "I Know My Love," which he figures Sally will go nuts over because it has the Lunts (famous actors) in it.
    • This leads Holden into a digression on show actors. Most of them suck, and if they don't, then they know it, and that makes them bad. Case in point, Sir Laurence Olivier playing Hamlet. Holden says Hamlet is supposed to be a sad, screwed-up guy, not a commanding general-type like Olivier played it.
    • Well, he's quite the critic.
    • Holden heads over to the Mall (as in an outside area without cars, not as in an indoor shopping mall) hoping to run into Phoebe in the park.
    • Instead, he runs into a little kid about his sister's age and asks her if she knows Phoebe Caulfield.
    • She does, but isn't sure where Phoebe is. Holden helps her tighten her skates. She's a nice kid, and he asks her if she wants to have hot chocolate, but she has to go meet her friend.
    • (Also, and maybe this is just us, she's a little creeped out by this whole situation.)
    • After being rejected, Holden mopes over to the Museum of Natural History. He remembers going himself on Saturdays when he was a kid.
    • His favorite room was "the Indian Room," a long, quiet hallway you walk through with Native American displays on either side. He liked it because it never changed.
    • And with that memory, Holden puts his red hunting hat on. It's not like he's going to see anyone he knows, anyway.
    • Certain things, he muses, ought to be able to stay just as they are, without having to change.
    • He passes two unbalanced kids on a seesaw and tries to even out their weight by putting his hand on the side of the skinnier kid. He can tell they don't want him around, though, so he leaves.
    • When he finally gets to the museum, it doesn't appeal to him anymore.
    • How shocking! Said no one.
  • Chapter 17

    • Holden's early to his date, so he sits around in the lobby and watches some girls while he waits.
    • It's depressing. Of course. Most of them are probably going to marry dopey or boring guys.
    • Sally finally shows up looking so cute that Holden, who doesn't even really like her, feels like marrying her that very minute.
    • This lasts until the second she opens her loud mouth to say how excited she is to see the matinee.
    • They fool around on the way to the show, with Holden being "seductive as hell."
    • For some reason, he tells her he loves her, and she replies that she does too. Well, except that she wants him to grow his hair longer because his current hairstyle is outdated.
    • Anyway, they get around to actually watching this show. It's not the worst thing he's ever seen, even if the actors are doing more showing off than real acting.
    • At the end of the first act, Holden and Sally go out for smokes with all the "phonies" and "jerks" who stand around and talk about the play.
    • Sally knows one of the jerks, of course. He's an Ivy League-type named George who went to Andover. He's the kind of guy that, when Sally asks him about the play, he has to step back and give himself room to answer.
    • George and Sally proceed to engage in phoniness and general name/location dropping. Holden engages in keeping himself from vomiting.
    • By the time the show is over and they're back in the cab, Holden is fed up with her. Still, when she asks to go roller skating at Radio City, he agrees (begrudgingly).
    • Mostly, Sally just wants to rent one of those little skating skirts that just barely covers her butt. A cute butt, Holden concedes, but still.
    • They're both horrible skaters, so the activity lasts only as long as Sally's ankles can take it. Then they go for a (non-alcoholic) drink.
    • Sally still wants to know if Holden is intending on coming over to help her trim the Christmas tree. We're pretty sure that's a euphemism for something.
    • He changes the subject; he wants to know if she ever gets fed up with life.
    • This is interesting: Sally keeps telling Holden not to shout, and Holden keeps insisting (to us) that he's not shouting. Hmm.
    • He's angry about people who discuss how many miles per gallon their car gets, about the phonies at his boarding schools and their social cliques.
    • Finally, he asks Sally to run away with him. He wants to drive up to Massachusetts and Vermont and live in a log cabin together.
    • Sally basically rolls her eyes and says there'll be plenty of time for such escapades after college.
    • Not true: after college, you have to follow all the rules and play along with all the games.
    • Then he says "you give me a royal pain in the ass." After this, she "hit the ceiling" and wouldn't accept anything from him, even his profuse apologies. She's even crying, which makes him feel awful.
    • When she refuses to let him take her home, Holden starts laughing. Pro tip: never start laughing in front of a girl you just made cry.
    • Holden wonders (to himself) why he asked her to go with him to live in a log cabin, since she's not exactly his ideal girl. But he admits that he meant it when he asked her. Is he crazy?
  • Chapter 18

    • Dear Shmoopers: READ THIS CHAPTER. It's only seven paragraphs, and it's pretty amazing. Just read it. It's basically the key to the whole book.
    • Holden leaves the skating rink, has lunch, and thinks some more about giving Jane a call.
    • He thinks about taking her dancing. He saw her once, dancing with another "moron" named Al Pike who used to wear tight bathing suits and jump off the high dive to show off his muscles.
    • Later, once they were friends, he asked why she'd ever hang around with a guy like that. Jane said it's because he had an inferiority complex and she felt sorry for him.
    • In Holden's opinion, that doesn't stop him from being a jerk.
    • He says if a girl likes a guy, she'll say he has an inferiority complex, no matter how much of a jerk he is, and if she doesn't like him, she'll say he's conceited, no matter how nice a person he is.
    • Women, right?
    • Ponderings aside, he gives Jane a call and hangs up when no one answers.
    • He does need some company for the evening, though, so he looks through his address book. Unfortunately, there are only three numbers in it: Jane, a former teacher named Mr. Antolini, and his father's office.
    • So he ends up giving Carl Luce a call, a guy he used to go to school with at Whooton before he got kicked out.
    • Carl, who goes to Columbia University, agrees (over the phone) to meet Holden for a drink, even though, Holden informs us, he (Holden) once called the guy a "fat-assed phony."
    • With nothing else to do until he needs to meet Carl at ten, Holden goes to Radio City and watches part of their Christmas extravaganza.
    • He hates it. Of course.
    • He can't enjoy the roller-skating comedian, because all he does is envision the guy practicing. He can't see anything religious or pretty in the angels singing carols, since all the actors playing the angels are really just thinking about going to smoke a cigarette afterward.
    • He went with Sally last year. She thought they were beautiful, but Holden said Jesus probably would've puked to see it. According to Holden, if Jesus were going to like anyone, it would be the guy playing the kettle drums. Holden and Allie used to watch him all the time when they were little.
    • After the show, the movie comes on.
    • It's all about an English guy that loses his memory after the war, and falls in love even though he was already engaged. Holden's conclusion? "Don't see it if you don't want to puke all over yourself."
    • The worst part is that he is sitting next to a woman who cries at all the phony bits, which makes her look like a kind person, except she's ignoring her little boy with her who is super bored and has to go to the bathroom.
    • After the movie, Holden heads out to the Wicker Bar where he's supposed to meet Carl.
    • Then he starts thinking about war, since that's sort of what got the movie story rolling.
    • His brother D.B. was in the war—landed on D-Day and all—and he hated the Army, not the war.
    • When D.B. used to come home on leave, he would just lie on his bed the whole time. He said if you ever really had to shoot someone, you wouldn't know which direction to point your gun, that the Army is full of "bastards" just like the Nazis.
    • Holden would hate the part where he'd have to look at the guy's neck in front of him (which reminds us of how he can't sock someone in the jaw, because he doesn't like looking at their face).
    • Holden didn't like A Farewell to Arms, which D.B. loved and made him read. He did, however, love The Great Gatsby, which D.B. said he was just too young to appreciate.
    • Either way, Holden's glad they've got the atomic bomb invented. This way he can just sit right on top of it.
  • Chapter 19

    • The Wicker Bar is located in the swanky Seton Hotel. Holden doesn't go there as much anymore because it's got "phonies […] coming in the window."
    • Not to mention the two French girls that do an entertaining act there.
    • So Holden gets there early, has a few scotch and sodas, and listens to the guy next to him trying to work his date by telling her she's got "aristocratic hands."
    • Carl shows up, and Holden gives us the backstory: Luce was supposed to be his student adviser at Whooton, but all he did was give all the boys talks about sex and who was a "flit" (i.e., who was gay). According to Luce, nearly everyone was.
    • This led Holden to believe that, perhaps, Luce himself was gay. Well, that, and his habit of "goosing" people and leaving the door open when he went to the bathroom.
    • Ookay. Seems reasonable.
    • Luce sits down at the bar, says he can only stay a few minutes, and orders a dry martini.
    • Holden is surprisingly energetic in his attempts at conversation. He asks right away about Carl's sex life, college major, etc.
    • Luce doesn't want to play that game, but they end up talking about a Chinese "sculptress" in "the Village" that Luce is dating, who is apparently in her late thirties.
    • Holden asks him a lot of questions about older women and Eastern philosophy, but Carl—obviously trying to come off as mature and sophisticated, refuses to answer any of these "typical Caulfield questions."
    • When Holden gets excited about the idea that "Eastern philosophy" sees sex as a spiritual and physical experience, Carl shushes him—and Holden admits (to us) that he does sometimes get too loud when he's excited (which reminds us of his conversation with Sally, when she kept telling him not to yell).
    • He's confused about how sex should be that way, but how he can't make it feel that way with every girl. As Holden continues to press the issue, Luce refuses to talk about it further.
    • Holden hates how Luce is the kind of the guy who wants everybody to listen to him talk about other people's personal lives, but refuses to answer questions about himself. And he always has to be the big shot.
    • Luce tells Holden he's immature.
    • Holden agrees. He says the problem is that he can't get really sexy with a girl that he likes a lot. He asks what Carl's father (who is a psychoanalyst) would think about that.
    • Carl says his father would help Holden recognize the patterns in his mind, which is what he did for Carl.
    • Gee, good to know Carl's dad is so concerned about his son's sex life.
    • Luce pays his check and says he's got to go, even though Holden asks him to stay for another drink. After he's gone, Holden says he's "strictly a pain in the ass."
  • Chapter 20

    • Holden sits around and drinks and waits for the two French women to come out and sing. Instead, this new woman named Valencia comes out.
    • Holden, getting "drunk as hell," gives her the eye, which she ignores; after she's gone he asks the bartender to give her a message, which—what?
    • By 1am, Holden is really drunk. So he starts pretending (again) that he's got a bullet in his guts and is doing an amazing of job concealing that fact from the rest of the world.
    • Blind drunk, he ends up in a phone booth and gives Sally Hayes a call.
    • Her grandma picks up. Oops.
    • Somehow or another, Sally does end up the phone. Holden tells her he'll come over and trim her Christmas tree, rambles on about how the mob got him, and hangs up. Or rather, gets hung up on.
    • Ugh.
    • Holden ends up in the men's room. He dunks his head and then just sits shivering by the window.
    • The piano player comes into the bathroom. Holden tries to get him to deliver a message to her, but once again gets a "What are you, twelve?" sort of response.
    • He's one of those annoying, handsome guys like Stradlater, who combs his hair a bunch in the mirror and then just leaves you alone in the bathroom.
    • Crying and depressed, Holden heads for the hat-check room to get his coat and Little Shirley Beans record. He chats with the hat-check girl and tries to make a date with her even though she's old enough to be his mother.
    • He shows her his red hunting hat, and she makes him wear it outside (since he's dripping cold water and it's December).
    • This is going downhill rapidly, you guys.
    • Back outside, he decides to go check out the lagoon and see if the ducks are there.
    • And then—he drops the Little Shirley Beans record. It breaks into "about fifty pieces." He picks them up and puts them back into his pocket, almost crying.
    • If Catcher in the Rye were an AA group, this would be Holden's rock-bottom.
    • In the pitch black dark of the late night/early morning, Holden finds his way through the park to the lagoon. No ducks.
    • So he sits down on a bench and shivers. Maybe he'll get pneumonia and die, he thinks. (He's still incredibly drunk, by the way.)
    • Holden imagines his funeral and how all his aunts would come, like they did for Allie's funeral.
    • He wasn't allowed to go, since he was still in the hospital for his hand, but D.B. told him one aunt kept saying how peaceful Allie looked.
    • Mostly, he'd feel sorry for his mother, who isn't even over Allie's death yet.
    • If he does die, he hopes they just chuck him in a river. Who wants flowers on their grave when they're dead?
    • Holden doesn't like visiting Allie's grave; he doesn't think his brother should be there surrounded by all those dead guys.
    • The worst, he says, was when he was visiting the grave and it started to rain. They could all run for their cars or umbrellas, but Allie couldn't.
    • To get his mind off the subject, Holden counts his money. It's a little more than three bucks. He skips the change across the water where it isn't frozen. (Hey, maybe you should be saving that money, hm?)
    • Well, if he did get pneumonia and die, Phoebe would miss him a lot. So he had better go visit her. Right now.
  • Chapter 21

    • Luckily for Holden, Pete the elevator boy isn't on duty when he gets to his actual apartment building. Instead, it's some new guy that won't recognize him.
    • He takes off his hunting hat before he goes in, so as "not to look suspicious."
    • Informing the elevator boy that he's the Dicksteins' nephew, he's taken up to one of the neighboring apartments. This somehow includes a made-up story that he's got an injured leg.
    • Holden sneaks into Phoebe's room, but she's not there. He remembers she likes to sleep in D.B.'s room, as it's the biggest and she can "spread out," which is funny for a little kid who has nothing to spread out.
    • Before he wakes her up, he looks at her for a minute. Kids, he thinks, are cute when they sleep, even if they drool all over the pillow. Adults, on the other hand, always look "lousy."
    • For once, we have to agree with Holden.
    • Holden looks around at her neatly arranged clothes. His mother, he knows, has great taste in clothes—Phoebe always looks great.
    • He checks out the stuff she's got lying on her desk. In one of her math books, she wrote "Phoebe Weatherfield Caulfield," even though her middle name is "Josephine." She's just always trying to change it, he says.
    • Among several workbooks is Phoebe's own notebook, with little scribbles of her own and notes to/from her friends. Holden reads the whole thing. It's really quite adorable. You should check it out.
    • Finally, he lights a cigarette and wakes Phoebe up.
    • She's all excited to see him and throws her arms around his neck. He tries to get her to keep her voice down, but their parents are out anyway at a party. She tells him all about a Christmas Pageant in which she's Benedict Arnold.
    • Um, weird pageant.
    • Phoebe rattles on about The Doctor, a movie about a man who suffocates a crippled child.
    • The question is whether mercy killing is wrong or not, which—and stop us if we're reading into things—seems like a very apropos question.
    • Hearing that his parents aren't going to be home any time soon, he stops to smell the roses, and by "smell the roses," we mean "look at the red elephants on the collar of Phoebe's pajamas."
    • He tells her about the broken record, and her response is: "Gimme the pieces. I'm saving them."
    • Holden asks whether D.B. is coming home for Christmas, but Phoebe says he might need to stay in Hollywood to write a movie about Annapolis, which of course some very famous actor is going to be in.
    • After asking about a bandage on her arm, Holden finds out she got pushed down the stairs by a boy. She thinks he hates her. Holden says he's probably got a crush on her.
    • Finally, Phoebe figures out that Holden kicked out of school again. "Daddy'll kill you!" she says.
    • Nah, it'll be fine. He'll just run away to a ranch on Colorado. Or something. Whatevs.
    • Phoebe pulls a pillow over her head, and Holden leaves for the living room to get some cigarettes; he's all out.
  • Chapter 22

    • Once Holden comes back to Phoebe's room, she tries to ignore him. He assures her he's going to be fine on his ranch in Colorado, and harasses her about a stupid haircut somebody gave her.
    • So why'd he get kicked out, anyway?
    • A million reasons, Holden replies—mostly, everyone there was mean and phony. He can tell Phoebe is listening, even though she refuses to turn around and face him.
    • Even the teachers were phony, like the way Mr. Spencer would kill himself making jokes when the headmaster was sitting in on his class, or the alumni that would come back on Veteran's Day to see if the initials they carved into the bathroom wall were still there.
    • He just didn't like it.
    • Phoebe counters that Holden never likes anything, which (1) is true, and (2) makes him depressed. She makes him name just one thing he likes a lot.
    • All he can think about are the two nuns and their collecting baskets.
    • Or a boy he knew at Elkton Hills named James Castle, a "skinny little weak-looking guy" who called someone else (Phil) conceited. Phil and his entourage did something "repulsive" to try to make James take it back; instead of apologizing, James jumped out the window and killed himself.
    • James was wearing his (Holden's) turtleneck sweater at the time, and the guys that were harassing James didn't even have to go to jail.
    • Since Phoebe's still waiting for an answer about what he really likes, Holden says "Allie."
    • Allie's dead, so that shouldn't count—but Holden says you don't stop liking somebody just because they die. Besides, he also likes sitting there with her.
    • Nope, that apparently doesn't count either. She wants to know what he wants to be, like a lawyer or a scientist or something.
    • Holden says he'd be fine with lawyers if they saved innocent guys' lives all the time, but really all they do is drink martinis and play golf.
    • Finally, he asks Phoebe if she knows the song he heard the little boy singing earlier, "If a body catch a body comin' through the rye."
    • Phoebe corrects him. It's not a song, she says, it's a poem by Robert Burns, and it goes, "If a body meet a body," not "catch a body." (Impressive fourth grader.)
    • There's no way we can say this better Salinger, so here it is, Holden's response to Phoebe:
    • "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."
    • All Phoebe can say is that their father is really going to kill him.
    • Holden decides to phone Mr. Antolini (one of the three numbers in his address book), who used to be an instructor at Elkton Hills but now teaches English at N.Y.U.
    • Before he leaves, Phoebe sits up (looking so pretty, Holden tells us) and demonstrates the fruits of her recent labor in belching class. Nice work, kid.
  • Chapter 23

    • Holden calls up Mr. Antolini. In the middle of the night. Mr. Antolini says, sure, come on over!
    • Given how this started, we're not sure why Holden is so surprised by what happens at the end of this little visit, but, whatever.
    • Mr. Antolini is the greatest teacher he's ever had. He's a young guy (not much older than D.B.) and a big kidder.
    • When that James Castle jumped out of the window, Holden tell us, Mr. Antolini was the only one to actually do anything about it (check his pulse and carry the body over the infirmary), even though his coat got all bloody in the process.
    • When Holden gets back to Phoebe's room, she's turned on the radio. The two of them dance for a bit. Phoebe, of course, is an awesome dancer.
    • She's busy demonstrating how she can make her forehead feel feverish when they hear the front door opening. Holden tries to fan the smoke away before jumping into the closet.
    • Their mother comes into the room, asking why Phoebe's awake at this hour and if she was smoking a cigarette.
    • Phoebe says she just took one puff and then threw it out the window. Her mother doesn't approve, but surprisingly there's no crazed screaming. Seems smoking wasn't that big of a deal back then, even for elementary students.
    • There's some chit-chat over aspirins and lamb chops, and finally Mrs. Caulfield leaves for bed.
    • Holden comes out of the closet and asks Phoebe if she's got any money (he's broke, and leaving again).
    • All she's got is her Christmas money, for shopping, which Holden doesn't want to take from her. She insists that he take the eight dollars and eighty-five cents.
    • Then she clarifies—it's only eight dollars and sixty-five cents, since she spent some already.
    • Apparently, this is Holden's last straw. He cries and cries. Phoebe hugs him, and he gives her his red hunting hat. Aw.
  • Chapter 24

    • Holden heads for Mr. Antolini's house. He used to see the guy a lot after he left Elkton Hills. Once Mr. Antolini got married, the three of them used to play tennis together.
    • Mrs. Antolini is "about sixty years older than Mr. Antolini" (which we take with a grain of salt, as Holden is prone to exaggeration) and apparently has a lot of money.
    • A cab ride later, Mr. Antolini opens the door, dressed in a bathrobe, wearing slippers, and holding a highball in his hand.
    • Mrs. Antolini is out in the kitchen; Holden notes that they're never both in the same room at the same time. (Hmm.)
    • Holden has a cigarette with Mr. Antolini, noting (to us) that he still feels rather dizzy (the reasoning behind his taking a cab instead of walking).
    • Mr. Antolini wants to know all about Holden's classes. He says he passed English, but flunked Oral Expression because you were supposed to avoid digressions and Holden, if you hadn't noticed by now, is quite the fan of a good digression.
    • He feels like that's when people tell you the really good stuff—by accident.
    • But Mr. Antolini counters with the point that there is a time and a place for everything. If someone starts telling you about one topic, they should stick to that, and tell you whatever the digression is later.
    • Eh. You never know what's most interesting, what it really is that you need to talk about, until you get going, right?
    • Mrs. Antolini finally comes in from the kitchen with coffee for everyone, looking old and quite unattractive (curlers in her hair and all).
    • She heads off to bed; Mr. Antolini gives her a kiss, which Holden says they do quite frequently in public. (Hmm again.)
    • Mr. Antolini keeps on drinking, and then tells Holden that he had lunch with his (Holden's) dad a few weeks ago. They're both worried about him.
    • Hm, we feel a lecture coming on.
    • We were right. Mr. Antolini worries that Holden will end up thirty years old and hating everyone.
    • Surprisingly (to us), Holden claims that he really doesn't hate that many people, or at least he only hates them for a little while.
    • Oh, well, in that case …
    • But Mr. Antolini Holden is in for some kind of "fall"—a "special" and "horrible" fall. He worries that Holden will "die nobly" for an "unworthy cause."
    • Hmm, sounds like we're getting into tragedy territory here, doesn't it?
    • He hands Holden a quote he's written down from a psychoanalyst named Wilhelm Stekel, which reads: "The mark of an immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one."
    • Holden thanks him and puts it in his pocket, but to be honest he'd rather be sleeping off his headache than playing quotable quotes with this guy.
    • Mr. Antolini argues that once Holden finds what he's passionate about, he'll be able to allow himself to be in love with knowledge and just forget about the Oral Expression classes that at the moment irritate him to no end.
    • Ugh, adults can be so annoying sometimes.
    • Then he gets all poetic about how men have felt exactly this way before, but when people can teach and learn from one another, it's a "beautiful reciprocal arrangement," etc., etc.
    • He says it's not that you need to be educated to change the world, but that men who are brilliant and creative and also educated tend to be more valuable than those who are merely brilliant and creative.
    • Basically, he's just trying to convince Holden that school is cool.
    • After Holden yawns (come on, he has been awake for the last 24 hours), the two of them make up the couch for Holden to sleep on, with a few more hints that Mr. Antolini sure is drinking a lot.
    • Since he doesn't have any pajamas, Holden just gets under the covers in his shorts, i.e., underwear.
    • And then something happened to him that he doesn't like to talk about.
    • He wakes up when he feels someone's hand on his head—Mr. Antolini is sitting next to the couch (in the dark) and sort of petting Holden's head.
    • It terrifies Holden, who jumps up with a "What the hellya doing?"
    • Mr. Antolini responds that he's just "sitting here, admiring—"
    • Nope. Holden is having none of it. Even though Mr. Antolini acts very casual about the whole thing, Holden grabs up all his stuff and insists that he's got to go because he left all his bags at the station (in the locker, remember?) and he has to go get them back.
    • As he's leaving, Mr. Antolini tells him he's "a very, very strange boy," which Holden sees right through.
    • Holden ends the chapter telling us, "When something perverty like that happens, I start sweating like a bastard. That kind of stuff's happened to me about twenty times since I was a kid. I can't stand it."
    • Hm. This sheds some light on the subject.
  • Chapter 25

    • Dawn is breaking (Monday morning) right around the time Holden makes it outside. He doesn't want to spend Phoebe's money by staying at a hotel, so he decides to get his bags and sleep at the train station.
    • And that is … wait for it … depressing.
    • Then he thinks about the episode that just passed. At first he wonders what Mr. Antolini will tell his wife, but mostly he just worries about the "flitty pass" he just experienced.
    • But then he's not sure if it was a flitty pass or not. Maybe the guy just likes to pat people on the head while they're sleeping. Some guys are like that, are we right?
    • Maybe he should have left after all, ugh.
    • To get his mind off matters, Holden picks up a magazine someone left in the station and reads an article about how you're supposed to look if your hormones are working right.
    • Uh-oh. Holden thinks he looks just like the guy who has lousy hormones, which concerns him.
    • It also says that if you have any sores in your mouth that haven't healed in a while, you probably have cancer (or at least, this is Holden's interpretation of the article).
    • Naturally, Holden has a sore in his mouth, so he believes he has cancer, too. Lousy hormones and cancer.
    • Time for breakfast. Or is it? It's hard to eat when you're … wait for it … depressed.
    • Walking down a Christmas-y Fifth Avenue, Holden looks around for the nuns he met earlier, in case they're around someplace taking up a collection.
    • He remembers going shopping with Phoebe around this time last year, and how she tried on about twenty pairs of those shoes that take hours to lace up and drove the salesman mad.
    • Then Holden starts getting this feeling, every time he crosses a street, that as soon as he steps off the curb he'll go "down, down, down" and disappear before he ever reaches the other side.
    • He's so nervous that he keeps talking aloud to his brother Allie, saying over and over, "Allie, don't let me disappear."
    • By the time he gets downtown a bit, he has to sit and rest, he's been so worked up about the whole thing.
    • That's about the time he decides he's really fed up with everything. He'll give Phoebe back her money, and then hitchhike out West.
    • Ooh, here's an idea. He could pretend to be a deaf-mute, and that way everyone would leave him alone. Especially if he married a deaf-mute girl.
    • Holden puts his plan into action by going into a store for a pad and pencil and then heading off to her school to write Phoebe a note.
    • Phoebe's school is the same one Holden went to when he was a kid. He says it's exactly the same as he remembers.
    • There's no one really around—no adults, anyway—since everyone's in class.
    • Holden sits down and writes the note to Phoebe, telling her to meet him at the museum during her lunch so he can return her Christmas money. (The museum is right next to the school.)
    • While he's sitting on the stairs waiting for his nausea to pass, he notices that someone has written "fuck you" on the wall. It makes him crazy that a bunch of kids will ask what that means, and then some dirty kid will tell them, and then they'll have to worry about it for days.
    • It makes him so crazy that he wants to kill whoever wrote it—but, who is he kidding? He probably wouldn't have the guts to smash his head on the concrete.
    • This is even more (wait for it) depressing than the "fuck you" that's written on the wall.
    • Holden rubs it off the wall, but is nervous that someone will see him doing it and think he wrote it.
    • No one's around the principal's office except for an elderly woman who appears to be a receptionist. He hands her the note, chats for a while, doesn't correct her assumption that Pencey is a good school, and leaves.
    • He passes another "fuck you" sign on the way out, but can't rub out this one, as it's scratched in. Sigh. Even with all the time in the world, you could never rub out even half the "fuck you" signs in the world.
    • Because he has some time to kill before meeting Phoebe, Holden contemplates giving Jane a buzz. Not at all to our surprise, he declines to do so.
    • While he's hanging around the museum waiting for Phoebe, two little kids run up and ask him about the mummies.
    • Holden informs one of the kids that his fly's unzipped, but the kid just zips it up, totally unfazed.
    • They want to know where the mummies from the "toons" (tombs) are.
    • Holden horses around with them a bit; turns out they're brothers, and one does all the talking. He leads them to the Egyptian wing of the museum and explains how mummification worked.
    • As he's taking them down the rather spooky hallway to get to the mummies room, the kids get scared and end up taking off.
    • On his way out, Holden sees another "fuck you" written in red crayon on the wall. He takes this as proof that there's nothing really peaceful or sacred around. If he were buried, for example, somebody would probably write "fuck you" on his tombstone.
    • Holden heads to the bathroom and sort of passes out as he's leaving. Somehow, he feels better after this.
    • When Phoebe finally gets there, she's late, wearing his red hunting hat, and dragging a huge suitcase along behind her. She informs Holden that she's running away with him.
    • No way. That is not part of the plan. They argue for a while until he yells at her to "shut up" and she starts crying.
    • He reminds her that she's got to stick around to be in the play, she cries even harder, he hates her more. It's a really sweet family moment.
    • Finally, Holden tries to walk her back to school, but she's having none of it. All she does is take off his hunting hat and chuck it in his face.
    • She refuses to go back to school and tells him (for the first time in her life, Holden says) to shut up.
    • Okay, fine: he'll let her skip school if she comes to the zoo with him, but her answer is a little ambiguous: she just runs across the street.
    • Holden starts walking to the zoo, knowing she'll follow him. And she does.
    • After checking out the sea lions (cute!), they get to the carousel, which Holden is happy to see is still playing the same music it did when he was a kid.
    • Though Phoebe says she's "too big," Holden gets her to ride the carousel. He tries to give her the rest of her money back after he buys the ticket, but she won't let him.
    • Holden finds this … wait for it … depressing.
    • All the kids go around on the carousel; Phoebe keeps trying to grab for the gold ring, which makes him nervous that she'll fall off.
    • (Quick Brain Snack, because Shmoop had to look this one up, too: apparently, some old carousels used to spice things up by rolling rings down a wooden arm on the outside of the carousel. Intrepid riders could read out to try to grab one and then redeem it for prizes.)
    • But, you know, if a kid wants to grab for the gold ring, you have to let them.
    • We think this is probably symbolic. (Check out "Symbols!")
    • Phoebe tries to get him to ride next, but he just wants to watch her. She shoves the red hunting hat back on his head, kisses him, and makes him promise he's not going to run away before she gets back on the carousel for another ride.
    • Holden sits around in the pouring rain, watching Phoebe ride while everyone else heads in for cover. He says he's near crying, that's how happy it makes him to watch Phoebe going around and around on the carousel.
  • Chapter 26

    • "That's all I'm going to tell you about," Holden says, which means we're starting the last chapter much as we started the first.
    • He says he's not going to talk about how he went home after that, how he got sick, and what school he's going to go to next year "after [he gets] out of here."


    • But there is there's one psychoanalyst around who keeps asking if he's going to apply himself next year. How should he know?
    • D.B. is there visiting, and he asks Holden a lot of questions, mostly what he thinks about all this business (all this business = the stuff we just read).
    • All Holden knows is that he misses everyone he told us about, even jerks like Stradlater.
    • That's the thing, Holden concludes: "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."
    • Whew. That sure was … wait for it … depressing.