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Barron's Booknotes-The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger-Free Booknotes/Synopsis
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CHAPTER 9

NOTE:

When was the last time you told somebody something really personal? Try to remember what it felt like to reveal something you'd never told anyone before. Chances are you told less than the complete truth.

That's what most of us do when we're talking about very private matters, especially unpleasant ones. One side of you might want to tell the unvarnished truth. Another side, though, will try to put the best possible face on things, to make you look as good as possible.

Holden is just like anyone else in this regard, so you have to read between the fines to obtain a complete portrait of him. His narration is filled with comments that are phrased to sound casual, but reveal important things about him that he would probably hate putting into words.

The chapter opens with Holden telling us he "felt like giving somebody a buzz" when he reached Penn Station in New York City. That sounds casual enough to be ignored. But think about it for a moment.

He has just left the dorm, his temporary home, and he's arrived in the city of his permanent home, the city in which he plans to live like an adult for a few days before going home. It's late at night, and he's standing nearly alone in a huge railroad station.

He has no immediate plan in mind. He has nowhere to go. He has nobody to talk to. He's so much in need of a human connection that he'd settle for just about anyone he knows. He wants to call somebody.

Holden is a lonely boy, but he can't bring himself to say it-to us or to himself. So he slips the information to us in a way that makes it sound as though he just feels like talking.

A couple of sentences later Holden mentions his younger sister Phoebe for the first time. You'll find out later that Phoebe is the most important person in his life. You'd never be able to tell it from this reference, though. Holden isn't ready to tell us about Phoebe yet, so he just glides past her in his list of people he considered calling.

When Holden takes a cab, we learn that he lives near Central Park, an expensive Manhattan neighborhood. During his conversation with the driver, he asks about the ducks in Central Park. He mentioned this subject in Chapter 2, when he was talking with Mr. Spencer, and his concern with those ducks is an important clue to his personality, another indication of his concern for vulnerable creatures.


NOTE:

During the cab ride scene, Holden uses the word "corny" to mean something like "fake" or "artificial." A page or two later he uses "crumby" to mean "sexual."

His use of "corny" seems to be due to his inability-or unwillingness-to think of the right word. But his use of "crumby" may be more important. He's talking about sex in that paragraph, and he becomes almost explicit. But he keeps using the almost meaningless word "crumby" instead of "sexual" or one of its synonyms. Think about "crumby" and its connotations, and you'll have some idea of Holden's dislike-possibly fear-of the implications of a sexual relationship.

The rest of the chapter shows Holden telephoning from the hotel room, trying unsuccessfully to arrange a date with a woman whose name he got from a college student. The scene is both touching and comical, and it could stand as an illustration of the ambivalence he's already expressed about sex, because he does a lot to talk himself out of the date he's supposedly trying to get.

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