The Catcher in the Rye: Novel Summary: Chapter 11-15

Chapter 11: Salinger’s eleventh chapter beings with Holden thinking about Jane Gallagher. He describes many of the childhood experiences the two of them had together. One such experience is when she and Holden were playing checkers on the back porch of her house when her stepfather started yelling at her. Soon Jane began to cry and Holden found himself putting his arm around her to make her feel better. Soon, Holden says, he found himself kissing her all over the face, except the lips. Yet he doesn’t describe his actions as a conscious decision on his part, but instead simply an involuntary movement of his body, something he can’t really control. This is consistent with previous conclusions made by the reader that Holden lets emotions dictate his behavior.
The next major event in the chapter is Holden’s description of Ernie, the piano player at a nearby nightclub who plays exceptionally well. Yet Holden, instead of offering silent respect and admiration for Ernie, convinces himself that there’s something “phony” about the way he plays. Holden doesn’t really understand it, but deep down believes that a big shot like Ernie must have too much arrogance to be admired. In this way, Holden can’t determine the difference between skill and arrogance; he automatically associates the two together. This again proves how scrambled his mind is and how he has trouble differentiating between good and evil.
Chapter 12: The twelve chapter continues Holden’s hotel adventures and his ongoing disillusionment with society in general. Holden finds himself in a cab again, and again asks the cabdriver where the ducks from the pond in Central Park go in the winter. By this time Salinger has successfully shown the reader how obsessed and neurotic Holden is becoming. After getting yelled at by the cabdriver for asking such a foolish question, Holden becomes even more confused when the driver tells him that the ducks get frozen in place for the winter. Holden accepts this fact at face value, but it proves how his mind is incapable of using logic, but instead absorbs everything told to him equally.
Most of the rest of the chapter is dedicated to Holden’s escapades in Ernie’s nightclub. After being seated alone in a crowded section of the restaurant, Holden finds himself becoming increasingly depressed since he doesn’t have a date, or anyone else for that matter, to talk to. So he criticizes those around him for applauding at the completion of Ernie’s piano performance. He thinks to himself, “People always clap for the wrong things.”
Soon Lillian Simmons, an old girlfriend of D.B., sees Holden sitting alone, and with her Navy boyfriend, comes over to his table to greet him. Holden immediately judges her boyfriend, “Mr. Blop of something,” thinking that he’s just pretending to be so manly by shaking hands so strongly.
Soon Holden escapes their company by saying he has to meet someone. He says, “Glad to’ve met you” to Mr. Blop and then leaves. He thinks to himself, “I’m always saying ‘glad to’ve met you’ too someone I’m not at all glad I met. If you want to stay alive, you have to say that stuff, though.” This statement continues Holden’s trend from the earlier chapters of adapting himself to every situation, not causing any waves, and making things easy for those around him by not telling them what he really thinks. It’s ironic that Holden complains so much about the phoniness of those around him when he doesn’t seem to have any problem lying on the spot. Obviously he doesn’t associate lying with being phony.
Chapter 13: Salinger’s thirteenth chapter often surprises the reader because Holden’s actions as well as his thoughts become increasingly unpredictable. The chapter starts with the confused teen walking back to his hotel in the cold. He decides to put on his red hunting hat to protect himself from the wind. Although he says he doesn’t care how it looks or what someone who saw him might say about him wearing such a ridiculous looking hat, obviously he does care about what other people think of him or he wouldn’t keep talking about it. In earlier chapters it was also obvious that others’ opinions of him were important though he continually denied it.
Soon Holden gets to thinking about why he doesn’t have any gloves and then remembers they were stolen by some “jerk” from Pencey Prep. Quickly he digresses about a hypothetical situation— what he would do if he found the guy who stole his gloves. Holden talks about the prospect of a fist fight between he and perpetrator. He admits that he doesn’t really mind getting hit but hates to fight with his fists. He says he doesn’t mind the pain but can’t stand to look at someone else’s face. This could lead the reader to believe that Holden can’t stand to look at the evil of the world, perhaps because he can’t understand it.
The rest of the chapter is dedicated to Holden’s encounter with the prostitute. When taking the elevator up to his room, a man asks him if he wants to hire a prostitute for the night. Holden agrees, and goes up to his room to prepare for her arrival. Soon Holden admits to the reader that he’s still a virgin. He seems kind of ashamed of it, but says that when a girl says no, he always stops. Later, he regrets it, but at the time he always stops. This is consistent with previous behavior patterns of Holden in which concern for others supercedes personal motives.
During the time when he mentally prepares for the prostitute’s arrival, Holden rationalizes his ‘purchase’ by saying, “I could get in some practice on her, in case I ever married or anything.” Soon, the girl, named Sonny, enters his room and wants to get down to business. Yet Holden just wants to carry on a conversation with her. When she doesn’t seem to want to talk, Holden realizes that he doesn’t really want to “give her the time” after all. Eventually Holden pays her and tells her to go, saying that he’s still recovering from an operation in the groin area. To Holden, this is just one more experience to absorb and confuse him even more. Obviously hiring the prostitute wasn’t what he expected.
Chapter 14: The fourteenth chapter marks another major turning point for young Holden as he and the reader learn more fully his role as a catcher in the rye. After Sunny leaves, he seems to become more depressed so he thinks about his deceased brother, Allie, something he often does when he’s depressed, he admits. The reader finally learns a little more about Allie and his relationship to Holden. Holden says that one time when they were children, he and his friend Bobby Fallon decided to go to Lake Sedebego, but wouldn’t let Allie come along. Holden reminisces about this for a time, giving the reader the impression that he feels profoundly guilty and sorry that he excluded Allie, now that he’s gone.
The next digression in the chapter is a second reference to religion. Holden talks about wanting to kneel down and pray but says he can’t. Then he gets to talking about how he’s an atheist of sorts. He acknowledges that he believes in Jesus and everything but admits that he doesn’t usually agree with other Christians. He recalls an argument he had with a friend where Holden talked about his dislike for the Disciples. He says that it wasn’t Jesus’ fault that the disciples kept letting Him down. Next, Holden discusses the reasons why he can’t stand ministers because, “They sound so phony when they talk.”
The action of the chapter occurs when Sunny and her pimp, Maurice, return to his hotel from. Maurice, though saying Holden could have Sunny for five dollars, which he paid, now says that it was ten dollars. Holden, though usually conciliatory in situations like this, refuses to pay more, deciding to stand up for the truth for a change. Eventually he calls Maurice a “dirty moron,” which leads the man to punch Holden.
Much like his morbid fascination with his own bloody face after the fight with Stradlater, he imagines his guts spilling out all over the floor. After Sonny and Maurice take his money and leave, he lays on the floor, seemingly enjoying the idea of getting beat up for justice. Again, he sees himself as a martyr.
Toward the end of the chapter, Holden contemplates the thought of jumping out of the window to kill himself. Yet the same old Holden, always self-consciously looking out for what others might think, decides against it, saying that he didn’t want any “stupid rubbernecks” seeing his dead body.
Chapter 15: Salinger’s fifteenth chapter begins the way many of his other chapters begin: Holden is laying in bed daydreaming about whether or not to call Jane. Eventually, like countless times before, he decides that he isn’t “in the mood.” In this way the author again proves that emotion, not logic, dictates Holden’s actions.
For the first time in the book, chapter fifteen offers brief, but genuine, characterizations of Holden’s parents. Holden tells the reader about how wealthy his family is, specifically his father, who works as a “corporate lawyer.” Holden almost apologizes for the profession, saying, “those guys really haul it in.” He goes on to describe how his father wastes so much of his money on Broadway musicals which always flop. Holden also describes his mother, saying that she hasn’t been too healthy since the death of Allie. Obviously Allie meant a lot to everyone in the family, not just Holden. Perhaps Allie’s death signaled the collapse of any coherent family structure, leading to so many problems and added confusion.
Another major idea is revealed later in the chapter when Holden describes how he moved his suitcases to make it look as though his roommate had the more expensive ones. This is consistent with the previously established theme of Holden as humanitarian. Holden seems to feel guilty for having expensive suitcases and sorry for his roommate, who has cheaper bags.
A second example of this theme is shown as Holden eats breakfast. While he eats bacon and eggs, two nearby nuns only have coffee and toast. Holden feels really bad about his, saying, “That depressed me. I hate it if I’m eating bacon and eggs or something and somebody else is only eating toast and coffee.” This again, shows how Holden apologizes for his money.
For the rest of the chapter, Holden describes his conversation with the nuns, and even gives them a contribution. He even discusses Romeo and Juliet with one of them. Holden takes the not surprisingly untraditional view that Romeo is responsible for Mercutio’s death.