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Early in this chapter, Holden says, "New York's terrible when somebody laughs on the street very late at night.... It makes you feel so lonesome and depressed."
There's that word "depressed" again. You'll see it a few more times in this chapter, and you'll notice it cropping up more and more often as Holden goes on with his story. Loneliness-the inability to make contact with people-is one part of Holden's problem. Almost constant depression is another part.
What makes Holden sad? It might be better to ask what doesn't make him sad. He seems to find something depressing in almost everything and everyone he meets. After a while, you begin to see that the problem is much more internal than anything else-that Holden's depression comes from the way he sees things, not necessarily from the way they are.
On his way to Ernie's bar, Holden has a long conversation with a cab driver about those Central Park ducks. The cab driver is a funny character, so the scene is enjoyable to read. But don't forget that those ducks are important to Holden; they'll become even more important as the story progresses.
As he did with the first cab driver, Holden asks this one to join him for a drink. Later he sends a message to the piano player to ask if he'll join him for a drink. Try to imagine how desperate he is to have someone to talk to. Imagine how lost and alone you'd have to feel to ask strangers to spend some time with you. And keep in mind that Holden doesn't seem to realize what these desperate requests signify about himself.
When you read Holden's comments about the people at the bar, watch for the pendulum swings in his attitude. For example, he hates the way Ernie is playing the piano, but "I felt sort of sorry for him when he was finished." He makes fun of the people sitting on his left, but ends by saying, "Real ugly girls have it tough. I feel so sorry for them sometimes." He doesn't like anything about Lillian Simmons, but "You had to feel sort of sorry for her, in a way."
His feeling sorry for people, feeling sad, and becoming depressed all seem to be snowballing. The references are coming closer together; they're playing a larger part in his story. Something is happening to Holden.
"I was surrounded by jerks," he says at one point in this chapter. This statement could fit comfortably into almost every chapter you've read so far. To Holden, just about everybody is a jerk. He does feel sorry for most jerks, instead of feeling superior to them. But they're jerks just the same.
The chapter ends with the statement, "People are always ruining things for you." This encapsulates Holden's troubles with the world.