Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 17

By J. D. Salinger

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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 Well, except that she wants him to grow his hair longer because his current hairstyle is outdated.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?

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