The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Analysis of Chunk 4 (Chapters 8 - 11)

In the episode in the train, Holden concludes that "Mothers are all slightly insane" in that they don't understand their own children, as seen by the woman's willingness to accept anything Holden offers about her son. Here, Holden mourns the biases that cloud a person's judgments.

After a while, Holden stops shooting the bull, noting that "I started reading this timetable I had in my pocket. Just to stop lying." It becomes apparent that Holden doesn't exactly feel comfortable with all his lying though he seems powerless to stop himself. Perhaps it is all this phoniness that drives him to seek companionship when he reaches New York City. Certainly it explains his overt honesty when conversing with the cab driver-he goes so far as to seek an answer to his question about the ducks in Central Park (see Symbols). However, the driver and later the girls in the bar all refuse to converse with Holden about anything that truly matters to him. The driver just cares about where Holden lives and the girls are busy looking for their phony movie stars.

Thus, his thoughts turn to two people: his sister Phoebe, and once again, Jane Gallagher: two people he's had an honest relationship with. It is interesting to note, though, that when describing Jane, Holden distances himself from his own description. When narrating the moment he kissed her when she was crying, he construes the tale to make it sound as if his actions were more or less mechanical. As much as he seeks true relationships where he "never feels much like kidding," he is afraid of them as well. In a celebrated quote, he mentions that "You don't always have to get too sexy to get to know a girl."

At the hotel, we discover some other aspects of Holden's personality. The first regards the episode wherein Holden spies on the other hotel guests. We criticize the two rooms that Holden sees (the cross-dresser and hysterical couple), yet we also criticize the fact that Holden is watching them. Holden judges the hotel to be full of perverts, but what is he, then? It is important to note that before Holden leaves the hotel at the end of the chapter, he looks out the window to see if the people are still there. He is becoming steadily disillusioned with those he sees around him, yet is powerless to refrain from watching.

Another interesting episode is that in the hotel bar, when he attempts to persuade the waiter that he is old enough to drink. To some degree, it seems that Holden is unsure about his age, or more specifically, his maturity. At many times, he mentions his immature acts, and we see them in how he fools around with people. On the other hand, he often attempts to act older than his age, as when he calls up Faith. In many senses, Holden the adolescent is torn between the coveted world of perceived innocence, which he sees in Phoebe and Jane, and the world of adulthood that he is forced into by his age and others' expectations of him.

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