The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Analysis of Chunk 6 (Chapters 15 - 17)

Early in chapter 15 Holden discusses how differences in the values of a person's possessions can stunt a relationship. "You think if they're intelligent and all, the other person . . . that they don't give a damn whose suitcases are better, but they do. They really do." Later he also notices this quality in different religious denominations. Again, what he is really discussing is the inequities of society and the estrangement of individuals from each other. Holden makes the sizeable donation of ten dollars to the two nuns in an effort to bridge the material difference between them which is apparent by his "bacon and eggs" versus their "toast and coffee."

Holden finds himself attracted by the two nuns because they lack any sort of pretentiousness: "they never went anywhere swanky for lunch." There is also an implication that a primary characteristic of the nuns is their abstinence from sex, which Holden may link to the innocence of childhood.

The boy on the side of the street helps to relieve Holden's depression simply because of his total disregard for everything: "The cars zoomed by, brakes screeched all over the place, his parents paid no attention to him, and he kept on walking next to the curb and singing." The boy simply has not matured enough to begin caring about what others think about him. In other words, the boy is not yet phony. Similar is his reaction to the girl who thanks him for helping her tighten her skates. There is no falseness in a child's politeness.

Holden likes the museum mostly because it never changes: "The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. . . . Nobody'd be different." Above all else, it reminds him of his childhood, as can be seen by his memories of it, where everything is simply nice. A particularly telling moment is when Holden argues that "certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone. I know that's impossible, but it's too bad anyway." Holden is again thinking about childhood and the loss of innocence into falseness. He refuses to enter the museum because he is afraid that he's been corrupted and doesn't want to find that things have changed for him.

This also explains the weirdness of Holden's meeting with Sally Hayes. When he first sees her, he is struck by her beauty and instantly "told her I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course, but the thing is, I meant it when I said it." It is his way of trying to hold on to that beauty he sees. He proposes to go flee into the woods because he wishes to get away from the phoniness of society, and also because he doesn't want to become a part of that society.

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