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The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 8

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 8 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 8 | Summary



Holden walks to the train station, uses snow to wash the blood from his face, and takes the train into the city. At one stop a middle-aged woman boards and notices Pencey stickers on Holden's suitcase. She asks if Holden knows her son, Ernest Morrow, whom Holden considers a jerk. Holden gives a fake name and praises Ernest. Holden describes Ernest as too modest to accept the position of class president. He then suggests to Mrs. Morrow that they get drinks in the club car, but she declines, clearly suspicious of his age. She asks why Holden is headed home before classes end, and he lies about an operation on a brain tumor. Mrs. Morrow wishes Holden well and invites him to visit during the summer, to which he replies that he has plans to travel to South America then.


Almost nothing happens in this chapter, yet Holden's interaction with Mrs. Morrow reveals more of his complex character:

  • Holden is experiencing the sexual attractions typical of his age. He likes to be near women and considers himself to be sexy around them. He plays the role of an older man as he and Mrs. Morrow talk, lighting her cigarette and suggesting drinks, even as she treats him in a motherly fashion.
  • Holden enjoys making up stories, yet he chooses to tell lies that make Mrs. Morrow feel good about her son.
  • Some hypocrisy seems to creep into Holden's conversation. He accuses adults of being "phony," yet Mrs. Morrow is sincerely interested in what he has to say and concerned about his supposed operation. In a switch, it is Holden who acts phony, motivated in part by his enjoyment of making up stories but also by his resentment of Ernest.
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