Summary: Chapter 7
Holden talks for a while with Ackley and then tries to fall asleep in the bed belonging to Ackley’s roommate, who is away for the weekend. But he cannot stop imagining Jane fooling around with Stradlater, and he has trouble falling asleep. He wakes Ackley and talks with him some more, asking whether he could run off and join a monastery without being Catholic. Ackley is annoyed by the conversation, and Holden is annoyed by Ackley’s “phoniness,” so he leaves. Outside, in the dorm’s hallway, he decides that he will leave for New York that night instead of waiting until Wednesday. After passing a few days there in secret, he will wait until his parents have digested the news of his expulsion before he returns to their apartment. He packs his bags, dons his hunting hat, and begins to cry. As he heads into the hallway, he yells “Sleep tight, ya morons!” to the boys on his floor before stepping outside to leave Pencey forever.
Summary: Chapter 8
Holden walks the entire way to the train station and catches a late train to New York. At Trenton, an attractive older woman gets on and sits next to him. She turns out to be the mother of his classmate, Ernest Morrow. He dislikes Ernest immensely but tells extravagant lies about him to his mother, claiming that he is the most popular boy on campus and would have been elected class president if he’d let the other boys nominate him. Holden tells her his own name is Rudolph Schmidt, which is actually the school janitor’s name. When she asks why he is leaving Pencey early, Holden claims to be returning to New York for a brain tumor operation.
Summary: Chapter 9
At Penn Station, Holden wants to call someone but cannot think of anyone to call—his brother, D. B., is in Hollywood; his sister, Phoebe, is young and probably asleep; he doesn’t feel like calling Jane Gallagher; and another girl, Sally Hayes, has a mother who hates him. So, Holden takes a cab to the Edmont Hotel. He tries to make conversation with the driver, asking him where the ducks in the Central Park lagoon go in the winter, but the driver is uninterested. In his room at the Edmont, he looks out across the hotel courtyard into the lighted windows on the other side and discovers a variety of bizarre acts taking place. One man dresses in women’s clothing, and in another room a man and a woman take turns spitting mouthfuls of their drinks into each other’s face. Holden begins to feel aroused, so he calls Faith Cavendish, a promiscuous girl recommended to him by a boy he met at a party, and tries to make a date with her. She refuses, claiming she needs her beauty sleep. She offers to meet him the next day, but he doesn’t want to wait that long, and he hangs up without arranging to meet her.
Analysis: Chapters 7–9
The Catcher in the Rye is a chronicle of Holden Caulfield’s emotional breakdown, but Holden never comments on it directly. At no point in the story does he say that he is undergoing an emotional strain; he simply describes his increasingly desperate behavior without much explanation. Salinger cleverly manipulates Holden’s narrative to signal to the reader that there is more to the story than what Holden admits or describes. In the previous sections, Holden exhibited a number of behaviors that might indicate a troubled mind: running through the snow to Spencer’s house, writing Stradlater’s English composition about Allie’s baseball glove, attacking Stradlater for joking about Jane, leaving his dorm forever in the middle of the night, and yelling an insult down the hallway on his way out. In this section, Holden’s frantic loneliness and constant lying further the implication that he is not well mentally or emotionally.
As soon as he gets off the train in New York in Chapter 9, Holden wants to call someone and seems especially to want to call Jane, but he is apparently too nervous (he suspiciously claims not to “feel like it” and runs through a long list of people he could contact instead). This seems particularly strange given Holden’s cynicism and evident dislike for most people; in Chapter 8, for instance, he describes enjoying the solitude of late-night train rides. His desire for human contact becomes even more intense as the section progresses: he begins to feel sexually aroused and tries to make a date with a stranger whose number he was given at a party, then goes to a nightclub to flirt with older women. Holden’s constant lying, in this section and throughout the novel, is a mark of immaturity and imbalance. As soon as he meets Mrs. Morrow on the train, Holden begins telling ridiculous lies, claiming to be named Rudolph Schmidt and to be going to New York for a brain tumor operation. He feels guilty for lying, but the only way he can stop is to stop talking altogether. There is no particular rhyme or reason for the lies he tells Mrs. Morrow—his intentions toward her may be kind, or cruel, or simply careless. What does seem clear is that he lies to deflect attention from himself and what he is doing.
In his reactions to the other guests in the hotel, whom he refers to as “perverts,” Holden reveals a great deal about his attitudes toward sex and toward what makes him uncomfortable about sexuality. He admits that he is aroused by the idea of spitting in someone’s face and that the couple across the courtyard seems to be having fun. But he thinks that people should only have sex if they care deeply for one another, and “crumby” behavior such as this seems disrespectful. What bothers him is his perception that sexual attraction can be separate from respect and intimacy, and that sex can be casual or kinky. He knows this from his own experience with a former girlfriend, from observing Stradlater’s mating habits, and from watching his new neighbors. As he tells his story, Holden never seems particularly concerned about his own behavior or that of those around him. He often seems angry, but he rarely discusses his feelings. By combining what we know about Holden from his narration with his actions in the story, we can piece together the desperation, the pressure, and the trauma he endures during this difficult time in his life.
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Pencey Prep: Pencey Prep is a boarding school for boys located in Agerstown, Pennsylvania that Holden was attending at the beginning of the novel. It is the fourth school Holden has attended and is later the fourth school he is kicked out of because of his poor marks. Pencey Prep is where the reader is able to get their first glance of Holden’s lonesome character, strong opinion of phonies and the fact that he does not apply himself as he fails four out of five classes.
At Pencey Prep, the theme of “alienation as a form of self protection” arises as it becomes clear that Holden can not maintain a close relationship with anybody. Holden’s alienation and distance towards others is made clear after he agrees to write an English composition for his roommate, Stradlater. The composition is about a baseball glove that used to belong to his younger brother, Allie who died from leukemia when Holden was only thirteen. After the death Holden never wanted to get close to another person so that he would never have to feel the pain of loosing someone he loved and cared about once again.
Lastly, at Pencey Prep, we are introduced to another important character, Jane Gallagher; an old friend of Holden that is going on a date with his “secret slob [and] Year Book handsome” (27) roommate, Stradlater. Before leaving Pencey Prep Holden is too afraid to go say hi to Jane in the lobby, in case she was not the innocent, perfect girl he grew to love in the past. Allie and his Glove: Allie Caulfield is Holden’s younger brother who died of leukemia while their family was in Maine on July 18, 1946.
Holden was only thirteen at the time of the death and has idealized Allie ever since, describing him as the the most intellectual, admirable and humorous person you could have ever met. From Allie’s death, the reader is able to witness first hand Holden’s “madman” characteristics. The night after the death Holden spent the night in their garage where he decided to smash all the windows, breaking his hand and earning him a night in the hospital. Claiming that he did it “just for the hell of it,” (39) although it is easy to see that he did it in a pit of rage over Allie’s death.
Holden was extremely close with Allie as he represented perfectly the pure, uncorrupted innocence of a child that Holden longed for himself. To Holden, it is unfathomable why such an innocent child such as Allie had to suffer and die and that is most likely the root of Holden’s problems and negativity towards phonies, growing up and losing innocence. Holden’s behavior and social skills underwent a detrimental change following the death as he was no longer capable of maintaining a close relationship with anybody in fear of suffering through another loss.
Allie represents the purity that Holden looks for in the world. Ducks in the Central Park Lagoon: Throughout the novel Holden continuously contemplates where the ducks from the Central Park lagoon go in the winter. They are a reoccurring thought for Holden and a major ambiguous symbol to the novel. Holden initially thinks about the ducks, wondering where they go when the lagoon freezes over in the winter while talking to Mr. Spencer after being kicked out of Pencey. At this moment the ducks become an immediate symbol of Holden’s anxiety and uncertainty regarding his next move after being kicked from Pencey.
Much like the ducks who are repeatedly kicked from their home at the lagoon, Holden was kicked from Pencey Prep and had no plan and no where to go. Not having a clear answer to his question, Holden continues to wonder what happens to the ducks in the winter time. Holden later asks cab driver what he thought happened to the ducks, but the cab driver disregards the question and explains that the fish have it harder as they freeze in the ice and “get frozen right in one position for the whole winter,” (82) and as for food, their nature is to soak up nutrients from seaweed in their pores, therefore nature takes care of them during the winter.
In this case the ducks are symbolic as they represent Holden as he is being forced to move; however, Holden would much rather be like the fish who get to stay where they are and have everything provided for them like children. This mirrors the common theme of the novel and Holden’s attitude towards growing up and wanting to stay an innocent child. Finally, Holden thinks about the ducks for the last time when he is drunk and decides to go look for the ducks at the lagoon. At this point, Holden is in his worst state; he is depressed, anxious and even contemplating suicide.
Seeing that they are truly not at the lagoon Holden realizes that he must migrate away from his childhood and fly into adulthood. Over all Holden wants to know where the ducks go because he wants to know where to go when times are tough and things do not belong. Phoebe: Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s “roller-skate skinny” (67), red headed little sister. To Holden, Phoebe is more like a saint then a sister; describing her as the most beautiful, angelic, intelligent, mature and affectionate little girl you could ever meet.
Holden also explains that she is very funny and has a good sense of humor, is a great dancer, listens and always knows what you are talking about. Despite the fact that Holden admits to being “THE MOST terrific liar you ever saw in your life,” (16) there is no doubt that he is telling the truth about Phoebe as she is everything Holden said she would be. Phoebe is one of the few characters to truly understands Holden for who he is and the struggles he faces on a daily basis.
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She unconditionally loves Holden and would do anything to help Holden such as giving him her Christmas money. In the end Phoebe is exactly the kind of person Holden has been “people hunting” for. He wanted to find someone to love and to love him back and was blindsided by the inevitability of growing up to see that what he was hunting for was right under his nose the whole time. http://www. sparknotes. com/lit/catcher/characters. html http://www. shmoop. com/catcher-in-the-rye/symbolism-imagery. html
Author: Allan Leider
Catcher in the Rye Symbols
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