Summary: Chapter 10
Still feeling restless, Holden changes his shirt and goes downstairs to the Lavender Room, the Edmont’s nightclub. Before he leaves his room, he thinks again about calling his little sister, Phoebe. Referring to her as “old Phoebe,” he gives a description of her character that is remarkably similar to the description he gave of Allie in Chapter 5. Like Allie, she has red hair and is unusually intelligent for her age. He recalls the time he and Phoebe went to see Hitchcock’s The Steps (despite his professed loathing for the cinema, he has clearly seen many movies and has strong opinions about them). He notes Phoebe’s humor and cleverness, and mentions that she writes never-ending fictional stories that feature a character named “Hazle” Weatherfield. According to Holden, Phoebe’s one flaw is that she is perhaps too emotional.
In the Lavender Room, Holden takes a table and tries to order a cocktail. He explains that due to his height and his gray hair, he is often able to order alcohol, but, in this case, the waiter refuses. He flirts and dances with three women who are visiting from Seattle. They seem amused but uninterested in this obviously young man who tries to appear older and debonair. After tolerating him for a while, they begin to laugh at him; they also depress him by being obsessed with movie stars. When Holden lies to one of them about having just seen Gary Cooper, she tells the other two that she caught a glimpse of Gary Cooper as well. Holden pays for their drinks, then leaves the Lavender Room.
Summary: Chapter 11
As he walks out to the lobby, Holden reminisces about Jane. Their families’ summer homes in Maine were next door to one another, and he met her after his mother confronted her mother about a Doberman pinscher that frequently relieved itself on the Caulfields’ lawn. Holden and Jane became close—Jane was the only person to whom Holden ever showed Allie’s baseball glove. One day, Jane’s alcoholic stepfather came out to the porch where Holden and Jane were playing checkers and asked Jane for cigarettes; Jane refused to answer him, and, when he left, she began to cry. Holden held her, kissing her face and comforting her. Apart from that incident, their physical relationship was mild, but they used to hold hands constantly. When you held Jane’s hand, Holden reminisces, “all you knew was, you were happy. You really were.” Holden then feels suddenly upset, and he returns to his room. He notices that the lights in the “perverts’” rooms are out. He is still wide awake, so he heads downstairs and grabs a taxi.
Summary: Chapter 12
Holden takes a cab to a Greenwich Village nightclub called Ernie’s, a spot he used to frequent with D. B. His cab driver is named Horwitz, and Holden takes a liking to him. But when Holden tries to ask him about the ducks in the Central Park lagoon, Horwitz unexpectedly becomes angry. At Ernie’s, Holden listens to Ernie play the piano but is unimpressed. He takes a table, drinks Scotch and soda, and listens to the conversations around him, which he finds depressing and phony. He encounters an obnoxious girl named Lillian Simmons, whom D. B. used to date, and is forced to leave the nightclub to get away from her.
Analysis: Chapters 10–12
By this point in the novel, it’s clear that loneliness is at the heart of Holden’s problems. When he arrives in New York, it is already quite late in the evening, but he embarks on an almost manic quest for interaction. His call to Faith Cavendish in Chapter 9 hinted at Holden’s desperation—calling a girl you’ve never met in the middle of the night is not quite normal—but here we see the depth of Holden’s feelings of loneliness and alienation.
Despite his independent nature, Holden demonstrates how badly he needs companionship. In these chapters especially, his thoughts are always of other people. He thinks about Phoebe, he repeatedly remembers Jane, and he mentally ridicules the people at surrounding tables. But Holden never mentions himself. He avoids introspection and reflection on his own shortcomings and problems by focusing on the world around him, usually through a dismissive and critical lens. His focus on other people reveals the extent to which he longs for companionship, love, and compassionate interaction to help him through a difficult period in his life.
For more than fifty years, Catcher fans have found a friend in the lonely misfit Holden Caulfield. The essays in this volume offer an examination of the novel's impact over time, and include discussions of the reach of Salinger's influence, Catcher's tumultuous history, and the culture and politics of the post-war era.
For more than fifty years, Catcher, easily the most banned book of the twentieth century American canon, the favorite target of conservative school systems, earnest parents groups, and strident church organizations, has thrived on its reputation as an underground text, passed among ardent readers with cult-like fanaticism, hard core fans who have found in the lonely misfit Holden Caulfield a companion, a friend for life.
But time has passed. And the question now arises: What exactly are we to do with a shocking book that no longer shocks, an incendiary text that no longer incites. What happens when the bogeyman no longer terrifies?
Indeed, by any contemporary measure of cool, Holden can come across as a shrill, obnoxious, judgmental, whiney, arrogant kid whose entire psychic stability has been unhinged by a single death (his younger brother's. By contemporary standards, Holden's swearing lacks fire and, far worse, originality. Holden's anti-authoritarianism seems cliché; his rants against phony adults, pedestrian; his apprehensions over sex, trivial; his terror over growing up, childish. And far more telling, in our culture's hard-won environment of diversity, Holden can appear to have little to say to, well, just about everyone, to minorities, to women, to the religiously devout, to gays; indeed, he speaks for a distinctly narrow demographic—spoiled, horny, white, private school-educated agnostic American male children of privilege.
This volume argues that, with the death of Salinger, we are at a threshold moment in our long obsession with Holden and its eccentric author, a chance to re-approach The Catcher in the Rye. We can approach the book now as readers. As it turns out, there is more to Holden Caulfield than, well, Holden. And there is more to Catcher in the Rye than Sonny Salinger. Liberated from the need to identify with (or the zeal to condemn) Holden Caulfield, liberated from the dark charisma of its troubled hermit-author, we can at last confront a novel whose argument, as it turns out, we have only begun to measure.
This volume gathers essays—now-classic investigations into the novel as well as new perspectives—that collectively offer the opportunity to begin such a re-introduction. There are, of course, essays that detail the emotional impact of first hearing Holden's voice. In these poignant essays, readers set aside the pedagogical imperative and attempt to understand the human ties they felt with Holden. These essayists remind readers today that once upon a time novels, and the characters in them, had the deeply personal impact that are now routinely associated with films, music, and television. However beyond such intimacy, the private identification with a book and a charismatic main character, Catcher speaks to a much broader community.
Scholars have positioned the novel within the wider currents of American literature. After all, Catcher's genre—the coming of age novel—is intrinsic to American narrative. By way of context, one essay reviews the novel's tumultuous history, the fierce condemnation and profound admiration that Catcher, alone among novels of post-war America, generated. Another shows how Catcher was part of the 1950's and that decade's complex assessment of the rewards (and dangers) of capitalism when, in the economic post-war boom, writers critiqued the mercenary assumptions of prosperity and ambition and the whole range of suburban gray flannel aspirations.
But Salinger's novel is ultimately both bound to its era and timeless as well, an expression of the collective imagination that makes such a tender, defiant book resonate across generations. What drives Holden to his ferocious discontent is what troubles all American adolescents—the settling into a stultifying routine, the disenchantment that comes with growing up.
This volume opens Catcher to a new and vibrant range of perspectives by challenging newcomers to the book to approach the novel through the argument of contemporary critical schools, including gender studies, social psychology, and media studies.
There is also the sobering reminder of that the novel's impact has been problematic: Salinger's novel has been implicated in horrific incidents in which troubled, emotionally stunted misfits have found in Holden's voice encouragement to act on their latent violent impulses.
But the contemporary impact of the novel is left behind by close reading. The present collection offers a stimulating range of them. One essay reconstructs Holden as a carefully designed vocal event, Salinger's deft shaping of a teenage voice consistent with the 1950's, a tour de force of authorial creation. Another elaborates a close reading of Holden's fiercely contradictory character by suggesting the rich dimension of Christian compassion to Holden's doomed, quixotic struggle to preserve innocence. Yet another explicates the symbolic implications of the death of Holden's younger brother, the emotional crisis that, despite Holden's reluctance to share much about it, shapes his brooding temperament and inevitably raises significant cautions about Holden's reliability as a narrator. The novel's ending provides to explore from different angles the implications of Holden's epiphany, his decision to forsake his naïve (and sweetly romantic) dream of protecting the innocent.
In sum, none of these essays offer definitive textual analyses; rather collectively they implicitly encourage further work, Catcher doing what any great novel does—incite responsible speculation, the endlessly rewarding round of a community of engaged readers assembling and defending provocative readings of a provocative text.
Each essay is 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources: