Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 19

By J. D. Salinger

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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."

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