The Catcher in the Rye Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye is a novel written by J.D. Salinger in 1951. It is told from the first person perspective of a young boy named Holden Caulfield, who is in a psychiatric facility after the events of the novel. Holden dislikes the world around him and his story reflects that. It explores themes such as growing up, the phoniness that comes with growing up, and alienation from peers as a means of protecting oneself.

Chapter 13 Summary

Brief Summary

Holden walks from Ernie's back to the hotel after lying to Lillian about having to leave to meet a friend. The freezing weather causes him to think about a pair of gloves that were stolen from him at Pencey. He imagines confronting the thief, but realizes that he is too cowardly for such confrontation. When he arrives at the hotel, Holden is asked, by the elevator operator, if he is interested in hiring a lady for the night. After learning of the price, five bucks for a throw, fifteen for till noon (91), Holden agrees. The prostitute arrives at Holden's room ready to service him, but Holden declines her. He tells her that he has a medical condition that prevents him from having sex. He pays her five dollars, but she tells him that he owes her ten. He refuses to pay and sends her home.

Detailed Summary

Holden walks the forty-one blocks from Ernie's to his hotel after leaving. As he is walking in the freezing, night air, he thinks about a pair of cashmere-lined gloves that were stolen from him at Pencey. He imagines that he would have confronted the thief had he discovered the gloves in his possession. However, he realizes that he is too cowardly for such a confrontation as evidenced by his inability to tell Lillian he did not wish to sit with her at the club. He thinks his cowardliness is due, in part, to never owning anything for which he would be concerned if he lost it. Thinking about the gloves makes Holden depressed, so he attempts to enter another bar, but changes his mind after seeing two drunken men leave from it.

Holden goes directly to the elevator when he arrives at the hotel. While in the elevator, the operator asks Holden if he is interested in having a good time. Holden is confused by the operator's question until he is told that he can have a prostitute at the cost of five dollars for a toss, fifteen dollars till noon (91). Holden agrees and tells Maurice his room number before leaving the elevator. There he nervously awaits the prostitute, thinking about his cowardice and it possibly being an obstacle to him bedding a woman. He admits that he is still a virgin because whenever had the opportunity to have sex, something always happened; such as a girl's parents come home too early or if he is in the back seat of a car, her friend turns around to check on her. He claims that during most intense, intimate moments the girl will always tell her date to stop. Holden always stops, though most guys don't (92) and he is never sure if the girl really means no. He believes that women desire an aggressive, controlling man: both traits he does not have. He changes his shirt again while thinking about a book he read at the Whooton School. The book tells the story of Monsieur Blanchard, a Casanova of sorts who Holden admires for his bedroom skills.

Finally, Sunny, the prostitute arrives, ready and anxious to provide her services. Her casual attitude towards the situation agitates Holden. He grows more agitated as Sunny removes her dress and sits on his lap. Overwhelmed by the situation, Holden asks her if she wants to talk before they get into bed. She doesn't understand his request, but then tells him to begin talking as she has other appointments. Holden inquires about her hometown and how often she works, but Sunny was a lousy conversationalist (96). Holden tells her that he is not feeling like himself and cannot have sex with her because he is recovering from an operation on his clavichord: a non-existent body part Holden creates for his excuse. He apologizes for making come to his hotel room for nothing and pays her the five dollars he believes he owes her. Sunny looks at the money in her hand and tells him that he owes her ten dollars. Holden refuses to pay her and explains that Maurice quoted him five dollars for the hour. Sunny leaves visibly upset with Holden's apologies trailing behind her.

Chapter 14 Summary

Brief Summary

Holden retires as soon as Sunny leaves. He considers praying, but his skepticism and general misunderstanding of religion and the Bible stop him. Someone knocks at the door, first cautious and then loud and insistent. Sunny and Maurice are coming to collect the additional five dollars Sunny claims she is owed. Holden refuses, again, to pay them and claims they are playing a confidence game with him. Maurice pushes him against the wall while Sunny takes the five dollars from Holden's wallet. After being hit in the groin, Holden calls Maurice a dirty moron (103). Maurice responds to the insult with a punch to Holden's stomach, then he and Sunny leave. Holden drifts back into his gangster fantasy in order to deal with the pain and humiliation before returning to bed.

Detailed Summary

After Sunny leaves, Holden sits in the hotel room and smoke. He starts talking to Allie aloud, habit that falls into when he is depressed. He's telling Allie to get his bike and to meet him in front of his friend Bobby Fallon's house. He is referring to the day when he refused to allow Allie to participate in a BB-gun game, something for which he still feels guilty. He finally goes to bed with thoughts of praying, but he is prevented by his contempt for institutional religion. He likes Jesus, but not the other stories in the Bible. He believes the disciples were not of much use to Jesus when he was alive. There is a knock at the door which worries Holden. He asks who is at the door, but they knock again, much louder. He opens the door to find Maurice and Sunny on the other side. They have come to collect the additional five dollars Sunny claims she is owed for her services.

Rather than pay them and avoid a confrontation, Holden argues that he does not owe her any additional fees because she staying with him until noon. He accuses them of trying to chisel (102) him. Holden then threatens to scream if they assault him. Holden's refusal angers Maurice to the point of violence. He pins Holden against the wall while Sunny takes five dollars from Holden's wallet. Holden starts to cry and calls them crooks. After she puts the wallet back on the armoire, Maurice snaps Holden's groin resulting in Holden hurling a slew of insults at him: You're a dirty morona stupid chiseling moron (103). Maurice slaps him in the face. Enraged by Holden's bravado, Maurice punches him in the stomach forcing Holden to collapse to the floor. Sunny and Maurice leave shortly thereafter, leaving Holden to recover from his injury. To deal with his humiliation, Maurice pretends that he is a gangster who has just been shot in the stomach and is now preparing to exact revenge on his offender. When he is fully recovered from the pain, Holden returns to bed and sleeps.

Chapter 15 Summary

Holden goes to a sandwich bar for bacon and eggs. He notices two nuns sitting next to him. They are carrying cheap suitcases and donation baskets, which depresses Holden. He offers them a ten dollar donation, but they decline thinking he cannot afford it. He insists and eventually they accept the money. He asks them where they are going. They tell him they are coming from Chicago to teach in New York City, uptown. He discovers that one of the nuns is an English teacher and the other nun teaches American government. He directs the conversation to the English teacher and tells her English is his best subject. They discuss Romeo and Juliet briefly before the nuns decide to leave. Holden offers to pay for their meal, but they refuse his second offering. After they leave, Holden regrets making the first donation and curses money for making him depressed.

Brief Summary

Detailed Summary

The next day, Holden calls Sally Hayes to make a movie date for later that day. Although he has two days left before he can return home, he checks out of the Edmont and stores his bags in a locker at Grand Central Station. He quickly counts his money to ensure he has enough for the date with Sally and to eat until Wednesday. He notes his father's frequent fits over money, despite being a wealthy man, and Holden's tendency to be a spendthrift. He also notes his mother's fragility, something that has increased since Allie's death. He's worried that his expulsion will heighten her already delicate and degenerated constitution. To pass the time before his date, Holden goes to a nearby lunch counter for breakfast. There he meets two nuns who have moved to New York to teach American government and English. Their suitcases draw his attention because they are cheap, imitation leather. They also remind him Dick Slagle, of one of his short-term roommates at Elkton Hills. Dick Slagle owned cheap suitcases that he hid under his bed while Holden stored his in the closet. Feeling uncomfortable about having his expensive suitcases in plain view, Holden placed them under his bed; however, Dick would always put them back in the closet. Holden believes that Dick wanted their classmates to think they were his suitcases. After two months, the tension between them led to both requesting new roommates. Holden was left with the impression that his expensive suitcases were responsible for the tense living situation.

He notices the nuns are carrying a basket similar to those the Salvation Army uses for collections during the holidays. Feeling bad for their seeming need for money, Holden offers the nuns ten dollars. They decline, fearing that he may not be able to afford the donation, but Holden insists. He tells the nuns that he excels at English and discusses Romeo and Juliet with them. The English teacher asks him for his impressions of the play. Holden tells her that he prefers Mercutio's character to those of Romeo and Juliet because he was intelligent and compelling. He also regrets that Mercutio is killed as a result of Romeo's conflict with the Capulets. After the English teacher finishes her conversation with Holden, her companion says they need to leave. Holden offers to pay for their breakfast, but they do not permit him to do it. Once the nuns leave, Holden remembers that he needs the money for his date with Sally and regrets making the donation. He proclaims: God damn money! It always ends up making you blue as hell (113).

Chapter 13-15 Analysis

In earlier parts of the text, Holden has maintained a conspicuous distance between himself and those in whose company he finds himself: equally seeking their companionship while dismissing the value of their company. As discussed in previous sections, this allows him to also maintain his delusional and idealistic world view. To be more specific, it allows him to continue to project his supposed superiority and enlightened consciousness. Rather than engaging in genuine relations with others, he daydreams about Phoebe's striking blamelessness and charm as well as Jane's quiet sincerity and warmth. Daydreaming has kept him relatively safe from the consequences of his erratic behavior because the people he has met thus far have seen past his faade. Unfortunately, in this section, the protective devices mentioned earlier are of no help to him.

He agrees to Maurice's proposal for a call girl without realizing that he is making a valid- though illegal-, business arrangement for which he is liable. This failure to connect his actions to potential consequences is what leads to the violent confrontation between him and Maurice. He clearly learned nothing from the incident with Stradlater, because he makes a second attempt to use his characteristic sarcasm and wit to free him from the responsibility of paying Sunny the extra five dollars. This only aggravates the problem as does his tremendous misunderstanding of the real world and his position in it as is made evident by his threat to scream when Maurice threatens him. There is no one to protect him from his self-induced harm in the hotel or in the late New York City night as there would be if he were back at Pencey Prep. Clearly, although Holden believes he is too aware for the prep school culture, in reality, his actual level of social awareness reflects that culture.

The incident with Sunny also examines his sexual insecurities. Although he is excited by the prospect of losing his virginity, he passes up the opportunity when Sunny arrives at his room ready for a five dollar toss. She begins to undress as soon as she enters the room without stopping to introduce herself or converse with Holden. This is strictly business for her, but for Holden, it's an opportunity to establish a deep connection with a woman. His mistake is that he expected Sunny to have a similar demeanor to his beloved Jane; however, Sunny and Jane are polar opposites. This places Holden in an awkward position of disillusionment while simultaneously forcing him to retreat to his personal delusions.

Now his encounter with the nuns speaks further to Holden's relation to the prep school culture he disdains. One of his complaints about Pencey is that it is filled with self-conscious, superficial children of the east coast elite. The connotation is that they are consumed, like his father, by money and its social cache. Yet, Holden is included in this category because of his tendency to be a spendthrift. He spends money as though he has an inexhaustible account. In some respects, he has one in his father. He says plainly, My father's quite wealthy (107). Holden, though, considers himself to be completely divorced from the bourgeoisie mentality. However, when he first meets the nuns, Holden's primary focus is on the collection basket in their possession and the quality of their luggage. As he's helping them with their bags he notes that They were these very inexpensive-looking suitcases (108). Although he acknowledges that the cost of the suitcases isn't important, he admits that he hates it when people have second-rate luggage.

He also notices that they're only eating toast and coffee for breakfast, whereas, he is eating bacon and eggs. The natural assumption is that, as nuns, they cannot afford to eat a larger breakfast, but Holden is distressed by the seeming disparity between his and the nuns' breakfast. These two observations are what prompt him to make the ten dollars donation, which he refers to as a small contribution (109). However, for this era, ten dollars is quite a bit of money. Despite having insisted on giving the nuns the donation, he is left feeling depressed about his altruism because he needs money for his date with Sally Hayes. Yet, the reader can infer from Holden's general view of the world, that his pleasant encounter with the nuns forces him to reexamine his certainty that all people are spurious, especially those involved with religious institutions.

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