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Barron's Booknotes-The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger-Free Booknotes/Synopsis
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CHAPTER 8

As he's telling us about his walk to the train station, Holden mentions his "Gladstones," as he did when he packed to get ready to leave school. Notice how casually he drops the name of his expensive luggage, and think back to what he said about the Spencers not having a maid. The last thing Holden would want to do is impress you with his family's wealth. But these offhand references make it impossible to ignore how easily he takes money for granted.

It may not be a good idea to define someone by the amount of money he (or his family) has, but it would be foolish not to take it into account. With Holden (as with people in real life), you don't want to say, "He's a rich kid" and stop there. You do, however, want to say, "He's a rich kid with a certain attitude toward money and social position." Holden's attitude toward money is tied up with guilt. Watch for references to money as you read.

Holden's conversation during the train ride with Mrs. Morrow is funny. He thinks she's friendly and charming, even a bit sexually attractive. Since you don't know Holden very well this early in the story, you might think that he's a bit perverse in mentioning sex while describing a woman his mother's age.

But suspend your judgment for a while. Holden will talk with-and about- several girls and women before he's finished, and you'll have a more complete picture of his attitude toward the opposite sex. Then you can think back and evaluate this scene from a more informed vantage point.

In talking with Mrs. Morrow, Holden does something kind, then something a little cruel. The kind gesture is telling the woman what a gem she has for a son-Holden actually finds the boy to be nasty, but sees that Mrs. Morrow is worried about how her son is doing at school. Holden offers the kind gesture because he really likes the woman and because he tends to do kind things for people. (Remember, for example, how he tried to relieve Mr. Spencer of the pain caused by having to fail him.)


But then, to avoid telling her that he's been expelled from school, Holden invents a wild tale about having to go home for brain surgery. Mrs. Morrow is understandably upset by this news, and the only way Holden can avoid compounding the cruelty is to stop talking to her entirely.

The lie seems rather stupid because he was enjoying his conversation. You'll find that Holden does something like that in many situations. He seems to want to stop himself from succeeding at communicating with other people.

NOTE:

Observe how Holden's language shifts in this chapter as he speaks with an adult. This shift is another indication of the good ear Salinger has for everyday language.

"He adapts himself very well to things," Holden says. And, "Some of the faculty are pretty conscientious." This is well-formulated, adult-type speech, quite different from the expletive-laden language he uses with other students. Back in Chapter 2, you heard Holden using similar language with Mr. Spencer.

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Barron's Booknotes-The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger-Free Booknotes/Synopsis
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