The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye Summary and Analysis of Chapters 6-10

Chapter 6

Stradlater returns late that night, thanks Holden for the jacket and asks if he wrote the composition for him. When Stradlater reads it, he gets upset at Holden, because it is simply about a baseball glove. Irritated that Stradlater is upset, Holden tears up the composition. Immediately Holden starts smoking, just to further annoy Stradlater.

Holden asks about the date, but Stradlater doesn't give much information, only that they spent most of the time in Ed Banky's car. Finally Holden asks if Stradlater "gave her the time," a crude way of asking if they had sex. Stradlater says that the answer is a "professional secret," and Holden furiously responds by trying to punch him.

Stradlater pushes him down and sits with his knees on Holden's chest. He only lets Holden go when he agrees to say nothing more about Stradlater's date. But when Holden calls Stradlater a moron, Stradlater knocks him out. At Stradlater's command, Holden then goes to the bathroom to wash the blood off his face. Even though he claims to be a pacifist, Holden enjoys the look of blood on his face.

Chapter 7

Ackley, who was awakened by the fight, comes in Holden's room to ask what happened. He tells Holden that he is still bleeding and should put something on his wounds. Holden asks if he can sleep in Ackley's room that night, since his roommate is away for the weekend, but Ackley says that he can't give him permission. Holden feels so lonesome that he wishes he were dead.

Holden worries that Stradlater had sex with Jane during their date, because he knew that Stradlater was capable of seducing girls quickly. Holden asks Ackley whether or not one has to be Catholic to join a monastery. He then decides to leave Pencey immediately. He decides to take a room in a hotel in New York and take it easy until Wednesday. He packs ice skates that his mother had just sent him. The skates make him sad, because they were not the kind that he wanted. According to Holden, his mother has a way of somehow disappointing him whenever he receives a present.

Holden wakes up Woodruff, a wealthy student, and sells him his typewriter for twenty bucks. Before he leaves, he yells into the halls of Pencey, "Sleep tight, ya morons!"

Chapter 8

Since it is too late to call a cab, Holden walks to the train station. On the train, a woman gets on at Trenton and sits right beside him, even though the train is nearly empty. She strikes up a conversation with him, noticing the Pencey sticker on his suitcase, and says that her son, Ernest Morrow, goes to Pencey as well. Holden remembers him as "the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey." Holden tells her that his name is Rudolf Schmidt, the name of the Pencey janitor. Holden lies to Mrs. Morrow, pretending that he likes Pencey and that he is good friends with Ernest.

Mrs. Morrow, meanwhile, thinks that her son is 'sensitive,' an term that Holden finds laughable, but Holden continues to tell lies about Ernest - including that her son would have been elected class president, but he was too modest to accept the nomination. Holden then asks if she would like to join him for a cocktail in the club car. Finally, he tells her that he is leaving Pencey early because he has to have an operation; he claims he has a tumor in his brain. When she invites Holden to visit during the summer, he says that he will be spending the summer in South America with his grandmother.

Chapter 9

When Holden reaches New York, he does not know whom to call. He considers calling his kid sister, Phoebe, but she would be asleep and his parents would overhear. He also considers calling Jane Gallagher or Sally Hayes, another female friend, but ultimately does not call anybody.

He gets into a cab and absentmindedly gives the driver his home address, but soon realizes that he does not want to get home. He goes to the Edmond Hotel instead, where he stays in a shabby room. He looks out of the window and can see the other side of the hotel. From this view he can see other rooms; in one of them, a man takes off his clothes and puts on ladies' clothing, while in another a man and a woman spit their drinks at one another.

Holden thinks that he himself is the "biggest sex maniac you ever saw," but then paradoxically claims that he does not understand sex at all. He then thinks of calling Jane Gallagher but again decides against it, and instead considers calling a woman named Faith Cavendish, who was formerly a burlesque stripper and is not quite a prostitute. When he calls her, he continues to ask whether or not they might get a drink together, but she turns him down at every opportunity.

Chapter 10

Holden describes his family in more detail in the course of this chapter. His sister Phoebe is the smartest little kid that he has ever met, and Holden himself is the only dumb one. Phoebe reminds Holden of Allie in physical appearance, but she is very emotional. She writes books about imaginary Hazle Weatherfield, a girl detective.

Holden goes down to the Lavender Room, a nightclub in the hotel. The band there is putrid and the people are mostly old. When he attempts to order a drink, the waiter asks for identification, but since he does not have proof of his age, he begs the waiter to put rum in his Coke.

Holden "gives the eye" to three women at another table, in particular a blonde one. He asks the blonde one to dance, and Holden judges her to be an excellent dancer, but a moron. Holden is offended when the woman, Bernice Krebs, asks his age, but he tells these women, who are visiting from Seattle, that his name is Jim Steele. Since they keep mentioning how they saw Peter Lorre that day, Holden claims that he just saw Gary Cooper, who just left the Lavender Room. Holden thinks that the women are sad for wanting to go to the first show at Radio City Music Hall.


By Chapter 6, Salinger has established that Holden suffers some great psychological difficulties, yet knowledge of these instances come from secondary sources. But in this chapter, Salinger brings Holden's unpredictable behavior clearly to the fore. Holden behaves almost solely on impulse, even when there seems to be no rational motivation for his behavior.

As this chapter demonstrates, this inability to control his behavior reaches far beyond any normal teenage impulses, as shown when Holden rips up Stradlater's essay when he fails to appreciate Holden's work. The fight between Stradlater and Holden also shows Holden's inability to control himself; when he suspects that Stradlater has slept with his old friend, Holden responds by punching him.

This event reveals contradictory impulses within Holden. Although he claims that he is a pacifist, a dubious statement that reinforces his status as an unreliable narrator, Holden seems disconnected from the violence he causes and the pain that he suffers. He views his fight from a distant perspective, appreciating the look of his bloody face without considering the actual fight itself. This predilection for extreme behavior and lack of connection to his own actions will be a consistent theme throughout The Catcher in the Rye, as Holden continues to allow his behavior to reach disturbing extremes. Indeed, The Catcher in the Rye, for all its apparent episodic nature and aimlessness, actually follows a pretty traditional structure, complete with intensifying rising action, leading to a climax, and then ultimately a denouement.

In Chapter 7, Despite the fact that Holden is still bleeding from his fight with Stradlater, he remains curiously unconcerned with his wounds, allowing his mind to focus upon details external to his action physical condition. Holden reveals more of his psychology during this chapter. His greatest concern seems to be whether Stradlater seduced Jane Gallagher, revealing an unhealthy, if predictable, view on sexuality.

Holden follows his thoughts on Jane Gallagher by musing about joining a monastery and thus becoming celibate. Holden seems to harbor a disgust for any type of sexuality, whether Ackley's obviously false boasts or Stradlater's successful seductions. At this point Salinger leaves ambiguous the actual reason why Holden would be concerned about Jane Gallagher in particular, for the only information Holden gives about Jane is that they would often play checkers together.

Holden finally reaches a breaking point in this chapter by leaving Pencey early, with no concrete plan for what he will do. In many ways this is typical of Holden's established patterns of behavior: impulsive, selfish and aimless. His final insult to his fellow students shows that Holden believes himself to be in some major respect different from the other Pencey students, possessing a greater, more acute intelligence.

An innate sense of superiority, however unfounded, separates Holden from the other students, for he believes himself to be more honorable and 'deep' than the vapid and self-centered Stradlater and more refined than the piggish Ackley. Yet Holden demonstrates qualities similar to those of his peers; he suffers from a self-imposed delusion that he is different and misunderstood and chooses to leave Pencey for an uncertain future. At this point, then, we're not quite sure whether Holden is a protagonist or antagonist in terms of how we should relate to him. Perhaps the better term for him is 'anti-hero,' meaning we sympathize with him because of his failures as a protagonist.

Setting is also crucial here as we see Holden move from the world of his boarding school out into the real world. In his mind, it is the priggish and boorish world of the school that is holding him back from truly being a fulfilled and happy person. Now as we move out into the real world, we'll begin to get a sense of whether Holden can get past his own walls in order to grow and access his feelings. Indeed, the book seems to hit a key crossroads here -- is the book a 'critical mimesis of bourgeois life in the Eastern United States,' as some critics call it? (Salzman 2). Or is the book an exploration of Holden's own hypocrisy?

In Chapter 8, Holden bolsters his earlier claim that he is an excellent liar, as his conversation with Mrs. Morrow contains nothing but falsehoods. The only statement that he makes to Mrs. Morrow that contains any truth is that he is a student at Pencey; otherwise, all of his statements are deliberately misleading. He tells Mrs. Morrow exactly what she wants to hear about her son, humoring her own sense of vanity and self-absorption by making her believe that her son, whom Holden loathes, is one of the most honorable and decent students at Pencey. These lies reveal the complete contempt that Holden holds for Mrs. Morrow and, by extension, all authority figures. He lies in order to mock Mrs. Morrow's sense of delusion while relishing the false view that she has of her son. Holden claims a sense of superiority over Mrs. Morrow, for he believes that he can see clearly Ernest Morrow's personality, while she has a false, idealized portrait of her son. Whatever her delusions, however, Holden treats Mrs. Morrow horribly. He views her either as a target for ridicule or a sexual object, as he flirts with her and even offers to buy her a drink.

This chapter is indicative of Holden's state of mind. He takes a trait that demonstrates a typical teenage immaturity, in this case lying and flatter adults, and moves it to an unbearable extreme; his lies become more shameless and outlandish, revealing the disturbing disconnect between Holden's psyche and reality.

In the first part of Chapter 9, Salinger demonstrates that Holden has absolutely no purpose for his actions. He wavers between decisions, whether the decision involves whom he should call when he arrives or where he should go. Holden approaches these decisions haphazardly, almost reaching his home address before realizing that he wants to avoid his parents.

His decision-making process, however, does reveal Holden's particular preoccupations. He has a fixation with Jane Gallagher that reaches beyond what the original mentions of her would indicate. When he thinks of Jane Gallagher, his mind wanders to sexual matters, but he does not think of sex related directly to her. This indicates that Holden suffers from a Madonna/whore complex; he can view a woman either in terms of absolute purity or absolute degradation but cannot reconcile this view. Holden even explicitly conceives of sex in disgusting terms. When he muses on sexual matters, he repeatedly describes such behavior as "crumby," but then admits that he himself is "pretty horny" and cannot control the sexual urges that can "spoil anything really good."

Salinger further demonstrates Holden's Madonna/whore complex through the juxtaposition of Jane Gallagher and Faith Cavendish, who represent two opposing aspects of female sexuality. To Holden, Jane Gallagher is the prototypical 'good' girl whom he remembers for playing checkers, while Faith Cavendish is nothing more than a prostitute. Both women, then, are symbols of Holden's increasing alienation from society.

By Chapter 10, we can analyze the tone of Salinger's novel in the context of Holden's narration to discover, as Walcutt has it, that

The most obvious way to account for the tone and flavor [of the book] is to assume that the hero is telling the story to an analyst or a doctor. It is familiar, even intimate, defensive, bragging, and yet also expostulatory, if not apologetic. (317)

Indeed, there's a showboat quality to Holden's narration at the beginning - this need to impress his audience - which gradually breaks down over the course of the novel as he becomes increasingly vulnerable and scared. Soon, instead of treating his audience as spectators to be entertained and impressed, he begins to treat us as therapists -- even priests to confess to.

Moreover, Salinger continues to establish Holden as a character with an entirely cynical view of others around him, particularly women and even including himself. His cynicism reaches nearly all those with whom he interacts, with a few notable exceptions. The most significant exception to emerge in this chapter is Phoebe, Holden's young sister. He lavishes nearly unconditional praise on Phoebe, detailing without any apparent sense of irony her intelligence and talents.

He even appears charmed by her foibles, such as misspelling the name of her 'girl detective.' Significantly, Holden compares her to Allie, one of the few other characters for whom Holden does not express contempt. These two characters, along with Jane Gallagher, represent for Holden a sense of innocence and childhood. Phoebe is still a child, Allie never had the change to mature, and Jane exists for Holden as an innocent girl playing checkers.

Those characters who represent an adult sensibility serve primarily as targets for Holden's derision. The three women in the Lavender Room are significant examples of this. Holden finds Bernice's insistence on propriety laughable, and dismisses her and her companions' tourist activities. For Holden, their actions are trite and meaningless, yet while they have a purpose and a plan, however simplistic, Holden behaves randomly and without motivation.

This chapter continues a pattern of pseudonyms that Holden adopts for himself. He treats his interaction with others as a performance, refusing to honestly depict himself to those around him. His honesty is entirely internalized; he admits his faults and lies in narration, but cannot do the same with other persons.