The Catcher in the Rye Summary and Analysis
Upon leaving the Lavender Room, Holden begins to think of Jane Gallagher and worries that Stradlater seduced her. Holden met Jane when his mother became irritated that the Gallagher's Doberman pinscher relieved itself on their lawn. Several days later, he introduced himself to her, but it took some time before he could convince her that he didn't care what their dog did. Holden reminisces about Jane's smile, and admits that she is the only person whom he showed Allie's baseball mitt. The one time that he and Jane did anything sexual together was after she had a fight with Mr. Cudahy, her stepfather. Holden suspected that her stepfather had tried to "get wise with" Jane. Despondent by the course of his thoughts, Holden decides to go to Ernie's, a nightclub in Greenwich village that D.B. used to frequent before he went to Hollywood.
In the cab to Ernie's, Holden chats with Horwitz, the cab driver. He asks what happens to the ducks in Central Park during the winter, but the two get into an argument when Horwitz thinks that Holden's questions are stupid. Ernie's is filled with prep school and college jerks, as Holden calls them. Holden notices a Joe Yale-looking guy with a beautiful girl; he is telling the girl how a guy in his dorm nearly committed suicide.
Suddenly, a former girlfriend of Holden's brother, D.B., recognizes him. The girl, Lillian Simmons, asks about D.B. and introduces Holden to a Navy commander she is dating. Holden notices how she blocks the aisle in the place as she drones on about how handsome Holden has become. Rather than spend time with Lillian Simmons, Holden leaves.
Holden walks back to his hotel, although it is forty-one blocks away. He considers how he would confront a person who had stolen his gloves. Although he would not do so aggressively, he wishes that he could threaten the person who stole them. Holden finally concludes that he would yell at the thief but not have the courage to hit him.
Holden then reminisces about drinking with Raymond Goldfarb at Whooton. While back at the hotel, Maurice, the elevator man, asks Holden if he is interested in a little tail tonight. He offers Holden prostitute for five dollars. When she arrives, she does not believe that Holden is twenty-two, as he claims. Holden finally tells the prostitute, Sunny, that he just had an operation on his clavichord, as an excuse not to have sex. She is angry, but he still pays her, even though they argue over the price. He gives her five dollars, although she demands ten.
After the prostitute leaves, Holden sits in a chair and talks aloud to his brother Allie, which he often does whenever he is depressed. Finally he gets in bed and feels like praying, although he is "sort of an atheist." He claims that he likes Jesus, but the Disciples annoy him. Other than Jesus, the Biblical character he likes best is the lunatic who lived in the tombs and cut himself with stones. Holden tells that his parents disagree on religion and none of his siblings attend church.
Maurice and Sunny the hooker knock on the door, demanding more money. Holden argues with Maurice and threatens to call the cops, but Maurice says that his parents would find out that he spent the night with a whore. As Holden starts to cry, Sunny takes the money from his wallet. Maurice punches him in the stomach before leaving. After Maurice is gone, Holden imagines that he had taken a bullet and would shoot Maurice in the stomach. Holden feels like committing suicide by jumping out the window, but he wouldn't want people looking at his gory body on the sidewalk.
Holden calls Sally Hayes, who goes to the Mary A. Woodruff School. According to Holden, Sally seems quite intelligent because she knows a good deal about the theater and literature, but is actually quite stupid. He makes a date to meet Sally for a matinee, but she continues to chat with Holden on the phone despite his lack of interest. Holden tells her that his father is a wealthy corporation attorney and his mother has not been healthy since Allie died. At Grand Central Station, where Holden checks in his bags after leaving the hotel, he sees two nuns with cheap suitcases. Holden reminisces about his roommate at Elkton Hills, Dick Slagle who had cheap suitcases and would complain about how everything was bourgeois. He chats with the nuns and gives them a donation.
In Chapter 11, Jane Gallagher continues to occupy a great deal of Holden's thoughts, and the stories about her reinforce other themes that emerge throughout The Catcher in the Rye. The story about Jane Gallagher reminds the reader that Allie's death has had a major effect on Holden. For Holden, information about Allie remains secretive and private, to be shared only with certain persons. This also gives more weight to the earlier chapter in which Holden writes a paper about the baseball mitt for Stradlater. This information, which he once considered so private, emerges as part of an essay written for others, indicating that Holden has been repressing certain emotions concerning his brothers death that may eventually emerge.
The chapter also reinforces the recurrent suspicion that Holden has for adults. He believes that Jane Gallagher has been abused by her alcoholic stepfather, which bolsters Holden's idea that all authority figures are dangerous. This also elaborates part of the reason why Holden has such a jaded view of sexuality, for he may associate it with actions such as Mr. Cudahy's predatory behavior toward Jane. Later on, we'll see that Holden himself has suffered at the hands of 'perverts,' as he calls them, when he meets Mr. Antolini. To Holden, then, sex has become something disgusting and not something to celebrate. Instead of relating to love, it's something that is its own decrepit entity, completely closed off from affairs of the heart.
Still, here is a key indication of Holden's hypocrisy and muddled position as a protagonist or antagonist. He seems incapable of the love necessary to reach sexual fulfillment -- and thus seeks sexual satisfaction, which he finds not only morally repugnant, but also deeply unfulfilling.
In Chapter 12, Salinger continues to establish Holden's great dissatisfaction for those around him in this chapter. He continues to show a latent hostility toward everyone he meets, whether Lillian Simmons or Horwitz. In most of these encounters, Holden expresses a false sense of cordiality toward the people he encounters, yet describes only their most negative traits. As he expresses his own false exterior, he becomes fixated on phoniness in others, finding only cynical interpretations of their behavior, such as when he suspects that the "Joe Yale" guy is telling the girl about the suicide attempt while trying to feel her up. What boils up, then, is a primal rage towards others who can find pleasure in the everyday - something Holden is completely incapable of. He is not only dumb, but deep down toxically angry about the impenetrability of his own defenses.
This hostility becomes more pronounced when he argues with Horwitz, who in a minor way challenges Holden for his foolish questions. Holden's anger seems most directed at those of his own particular social situation: he hates "prep school jerks" and "Joe Yale" guys, people who travel in similar circles. This emerges as a particular form of self-loathing. As a prep school student who is expected to attend an Ivy League college, Holden loathes those persons who are most like him. Indeed, he'd rather give himself the name of the Pencey janitor then take responsibility for his own privileged position. He finds romance in pretending to be downtrodden - in feigning oppression.
It might be too facile to say that Holden is simply in the throes of an existential dilemma. He less questions his soul and more holds it in, in order to avoid the pain of living. After Allie's death, it seemed, he was plunged into a true vision of life's suffering, and couldn't bear to stomach it while awash in the trivialities of everyday life. He hates people primarily because they can't see what he does - that life is short and unpredictable, and that love isn't worth giving because it might be taken away.
In Chapter 13, Holden emerges as a scared adolescent in this chapter, as he admits to himself his own cowardice. He believes that he is incapable of standing up to another Pencey student and fighting him in defense of his property, a claim that stands contradictory to his earlier fight with Stradlater. However, in that instance he fought Stradlater out of sheer impulse. Indeed, if Holden ever fights back, it's never out of a belief that he will vindicate himself, but rather out of a seeming obsession with self-destruction. He wants to be beaten up. He wants to suffer pain. Perhaps it's the only thing that makes him feel alive.
When a decision requires any degree of forethought, moreover, Holden cannot commit to it. This inability to follow through on decisions is also demonstrated during Holden's encounter with the prostitute, which also serves as a reminder of his view of women as either purely virginal or irredeemable whores. The prostitute questions Holden's age, just as others have done during the course of the novel, again proving that however old Holden thinks that he appears, he presents himself as a child to the adult characters around him.
Holden's behavior becomes increasingly self-destructive as Chapter 14 progresses. Although he knows that Maurice and Sunny threaten him, he persists in arguing with them, even though they only dispute a five dollar charge and he believes that he is in serious danger. During this encounter Holden once again reveals himself to be a child, breaking down into tears as soon as Sunny and Maurice take the money from him, yet he displays more than extreme teenage disaffection. Holden fantasizes about murdering Maurice after he leaves, but gives this thought only passing consideration. Rather, the more important threat that Holden poses is to himself. His behavior toward Maurice and Sunny indicates that he is at some level unconcerned that they will hurt him, and he even seems to take some perverse pleasure from the pain Maurice inflicts, as he uses this as a chance for role-playing as a movie gangster.
Salinger includes several instances indicating Holden's masochistic attitudes, such as his admission that his favorite character in the Bible is one who mutilates himself. These details accumulate throughout the chapter to Holden's final revelation that he is considering suicide. Although he finally dismisses the idea of jumping out the window because of the particular details of his death, this is a clear sign of Holden's despair. Salinger clearly foreshadows that Holden will engage in some suicidal action, possibly the reason why he is in psychiatric care as the book begins.
In Chapter 15, after the jarring events of the previous night, Holden returns to his normal state of affairs and preoccupations. He treats Sally Hayes in the same manner as he does the other persons he meets or mentions in the course of the novel: outwardly friendly and cordial while masking a core of contempt for their values and idiosyncrasies. Holden continues to elaborate on his family history, this time expanding the scope of Allie's death to include other family members. Indeed, the death of his brother has had a significant impact on Holden, but has also had devastating consequences for the rest of his family. We sense that the family never recovered and that everyone pulled away from one another, perhaps in self-protection. Only Holden and Phoebe stayed close, but even he deliberately abandons her so that she won't ever suffer pain if he disappears permanently.
Holden also continues his preoccupation with sex when he meets the nuns at Grand Central and wonders how they react to "sexy" literature such as Romeo and Juliet. This encounter is indicative of Holden's earlier established Madonna/whore complex. He believes that nuns are so divorced from any sense of sexuality that they could not reasonably deal with works with erotic themes. This perhaps explains his superficial attraction to becoming a monk. The idea of compartmentalizing his sexuality and divorcing it from himself is so alluring primarily because that's what he's tried to achieve - though futilely.
However, the most significant revelation in this chapter concerns Holden's sense of class arrogance. Although he chastised Stradlater and others for their snobbery in previous chapters, Holden reveals himself to be an equal snob in this chapter, condescending to others because of their cheap suitcases. He believes that the common factor linking people is not intelligence or talent, but rather social class as defined by consumer taste. This further establishes Holden's sense of hypocrisy: although he decries the behavior of the class to which he belongs, he shares their behaviors and even accepts this value system as reasonable.
The Catcher in the Rye Essays and Related Content
- The Catcher in the Rye: Major Themes
- The Catcher in the Rye: Essays
- The Catcher in the Rye: Questions
- The Catcher in the Rye: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- J.D. Salinger: Biography
- The Catcher in the Rye Summary
- About The Catcher in the Rye
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-2
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 3-5
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 6-10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-26
- Catcher in the Rye: A History of Censorship
- Related Links on The Catcher in the Rye
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
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