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Free Study Guide-The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger-Free BookNotes
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Chapter 8

Summary

Since it is too late to call for a taxi, Holden walks to the train station. On the way, he washes the blood from his nose with snow. The train comes soon and is practically empty, although tonight Holden would actually prefer for it to be full. At Trenton station, a lady boards the train and strikes up a conversation with Holden, recognizing his school’s insignia on one of his suitcases. It turns out that she is the mother of one of Holden’s classmates, a boy named Ernest Morrow. Holden tells her several lies about her son; they are good lies, the kind a mother wants to hear. He also tells her his name is Rudolf Schmidt, though that is the name of the janitor at the school. He ends the conversation by telling her he is on his way to have a tumor removed from his brain.


Notes

As usual, Holden’s narrative provides his opinions and thoughts. He tells the reader he likes to travel at night when the train is empty. However, given his mental state on this particular night, he finds that the empty train only reinforces his loneliness. He is relieved and happy when Mrs. Morrow boards, so he has someone to talk to. When he finds that she has a son at Pencey, he creates a multitude of lies about Ernest to make her feel good. When he calls himself Rudolf Schmidt, it is a textbook attempt to run away from his identity. It is significant that he chooses the name of the lowly janitor; he is so depressed he cannot imagine himself to be anyone better. In fact, he assumes a second identity, even worse than the first, for he tells Mrs. Morrow he is going in to the city to have a brain tumor removed. For the time being, it would seem that an artificial life with a brain tumor is preferable to his own.

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