The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 18

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 18 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 18 | Summary

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Summary

Holden thinks about calling Jane to see if she wants to go dancing. No one answers at Jane's house, so, feeling bored and lonely, Holden phones Carl Luce, a Columbia University student whom Holden remembers attended Whooton with him. They agree to meet for drinks at about 10. To pass the time, Holden goes to Radio City Music Hall and watches the Rockettes and other acts. One act involves many people dressed like angels, singing "Come All Ye Faithful" and carrying crucifixes. Holden thinks that "old Jesus probably would've puked." Then the movie starts, a war film that was "so putrid" Holden couldn't look away. A woman seated near him weeps and refuses to take her kid to the bathroom. This disgusts Holden: the woman cries over "phony stuff in the movies" but cruelly ignores her son.

As Holden leaves for the Wicker Bar to meet Luce, he thinks about D.B.'s years in the army. Holden saw the war's effect on his older brother, who was distant during his furloughs. Holden imagines serving with people like Maurice, Ackley, and Stradlater and decides that, in the event of another war, he would "sit right the hell on top" of an atomic bomb.

Analysis

Holden admits that passing the time at Radio City is a mistake. The place is practically a metaphor for everything he finds phony: the near-identical dancers, the people clapping wildly, the bizarre mash-up of religious imagery and show biz, the maudlin movie. The fascination with spectacle has real-world consequences, represented by the woman who appears more engaged with the movie plot than with her own son. Holden may be judgmental, but he is not wrong about how shallow entertainment can be or how people can become distracted from what matters.

Holden's thoughts after the movie offer a clearer look at D.B. and their relationship. Because Holden is 17 and D.B. served throughout World War II, the age gap between them is probably about a decade, yet D.B. worked to stay close to his brother through novels he recommended Holden read. They clash over D.B.'s appreciation of Ernest Hemingway's novel of World War I, A Farewell to Arms: Holden can't understand why D.B. "hated the Army" like the "phony" main character, and D.B. explains Holden's reaction with a line he's sick of hearing—he's too young to understand.

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