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Chapter 19

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 19 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 19 | Summary

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Summary

Holden usually avoided the Wicker Bar, where "two French babes" played piano and sang "dirty" songs to "drive all the phonies in the place mad with joy." While Holden waits for Luce, he drinks Scotch and soda and watches the "flits" at the end of the bar. At Whooton, Luce was a student advisor and gave "sex talks" that were especially informative on the subject of perverts. Luce gossiped about Hollywood flits and their arranged marriages and scared the boys by claiming that they could become flits "practically overnight" if they "had the traits." Holden wonders whether Luce is gay and, when Luce arrives at the bar, teases him about the flits. Luce tells him to grow up.

Luce, now a student at Columbia, parries Holden's attempts to steer the conversation toward sex. Holden presses him for advice on sex until Luce insists, "Drop it." Holden finds Luce's reluctance self-serving. Luce always wanted to ration out information. Luce advises Holden to talk to a psychoanalyst but adds that he doesn't care what Holden does. As Luce leaves, irritated by Holden's demands, Holden tells him he's a "real friendly bastard."

Analysis

Holden's character is further developed in this chapter—in particular, his tendency to judge others, hypocritically, for his own failings. Readers see this in the way Holden describes the Wicker Bar, a "swanky" club that is "supposed to be very sophisticated." Holden knows the bartender well enough to describe him as "a louse" and a phony snob. Holden criticizes the bar's clientele harshly but gives away his own attraction to the "terrible place" when he says, "I cut out going there entirely, gradually." He's both deeply attracted to and repelled by the bar's atmosphere.

Also revealed in this chapter is one of Holden's sexual fears: that he will suddenly become gay. He sees long-haired gays at the bar; he recalls Luce's lectures to the younger students about "flits." Since Holden is sexually inexperienced yet intrigued by what he thinks of as "perverty" sex, the idea of same-sex attraction fascinates him.

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