Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 2

By J. D. Salinger

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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.

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