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Chapter 12

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 12 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 12 | Summary

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Summary

Holden takes a cab through deserted streets, wishing that he could talk with Phoebe. Holden asks the driver, Horwitz, about the ducks. Horwitz says that the fish survive, frozen in the ice, by taking in nutrition through their pores.

Ernie's is packed "with prep school jerks and college jerks" listening to Ernie. Holden objects to Ernie's style, but the crowd loves it. Ernie strikes Holden as outwardly humble but really snobby.

Holden sits alone until Lillian Simmons, a friend of D.B., recognizes him. She introduces her date, whom Holden pegs as a manly man. Holden claims that he is just about to leave, despising the polite talk Lillian forces on him. Then, to make his lie good, Holden leaves.

Analysis

Lonely, quiet, alone, and lonesome are words that crop up in this and the previous chapter. Holden feels stupid sitting alone at Ernie's, yet he can't stand the thought of returning, alone, to his hotel room. The conversations of couples around him reinforce his isolation—he's alone in the midst of a crowd.

Yet Holden actively seeks connections. He thinks of people he could call, moves from place to place to be among people, and attempts to converse—with cab drivers, tourists, even Ernie. Holden is out of his element—he's too young, at 16, to drink at clubs or to interest older women except in motherly ways or as D.B.'s cute little brother. The person most on his mind, Jane, is one with whom he did connect. And he longs to talk with Phoebe, who understands him so well. He is alone but seeking home.

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