The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 17

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 17 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 17 | Summary

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Summary

Sally shows up, and they exchange phony greetings. In the cab to the theater, Holden persuades Sally to kiss him although it messes up her lipstick.

During intermission in the play, Sally spots George, a boy she'd met once, and the two talk as if they'd known each other for years. After the second act, Sally and George talk more. By the time Holden and Sally leave the theater, he "sort of hated" her.

Then Holden rants about hating school, New York, taxis, plays, elevators—as Sally tries to hush him. He tells Sally that he'd rather be far off from the phonies. He suggests a plan: He and Sally will drive to Massachusetts and Vermont. They will stay in a camp until they run out of money and then "get married or something" and live by a brook where he'll chop wood in the winter.

Sally tells Holden to stop yelling at her. After college, she says, they'd have plenty of time to go places. Immediately deflated, Holden offers a contrasting view of adult life: boring office jobs, commutes, newspapers, and plays. They argue, and Sally refuses his apology. Holden's reaction is a loud, stupid laugh that drives Sally away.

Analysis

More than anything, this chapter shows Holden's severe mental depression, his separation from society in general, and his disconnection from reality. His date with Sally obviously does not go nearly as well as he had hoped. The teenagers and young adults that Holden encounters are, like him, working their way through the transition from childhood to adulthood. Like the actors whose phoniness Holden despises, they try on adult roles, practicing their way into adult life. In this critical chapter, Sally and George successfully practice these roles. They catch up, chat about the play, and mingle with the other playgoers. Holden, for whom movies and acting are dissatisfying representations of real life, finds Sally and George "nauseating" and intimidating. Holden's impractical solution indicative of his separation from society is to flee that world and live a simple life in a wilderness cabin. Sally rejects this plan outright. She is a young woman finding her way in the urban world. As she rejects his escape plan, she is also rejecting Holden himself, leading to his rude comments, her hurt feelings and rejection of his apology, and an abrupt end to the date. Holden finds himself again on the outside of the impenetrable adult world into which his peers seem to be moving naturally and assertively. Displaying his disconnection from reality and his inability to cope, Holden says he is "a madman."

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