Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 20

By J. D. Salinger

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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.

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