Catcher in the Rye Chapters 18 - 19 Summary

As Chapter 18 opens, Holden is leaving the skating rink at Radio City. After having a disastrous date with Sally, Jane Gallagher is once again on his mind. Holden wants to call Jane and take her out dancing. He remembers seeing her dancing once and describes the boy, Al Pike, who was dancing with her then, as a "moron." He says that Al Pike was the kind of guy that would try to show off all his muscles by diving off the high diving board in a tight bathing suit.

Holden tells us that he asked Jane once how she could ever dance with such a big phony like Al Pike. Jane told him that she felt sorry for Al because he had an inferiority complex. Jane's pity for Al causes Holden some disgust. He tells us that if a girl likes a guy, she says he has an inferiority complex, but if she does not like a guy, she says he is conceited. He thinks that neither of those descriptions has anything to do with whether or not a guy is a good person.

Holden calls Jane, but nobody answers the phone.

Holden looks in his phonebook for somebody to call, so he can have some company for the night. Alas, he discovers that he only has three people in his phonebook; Jane, his father, and a teacher. Then, Holden remembers his student advisor at Whooton, Carl Luce. Carl is three years older than Holden, and even though he called Carl a "fat-assed phony" once, Holden decides to give him a call. Carl goes to Columbia University, which is in New York City. Holden calls Carl and arranges to meet him for a drink at the Wicker Bar in the Seton Hotel at ten o'clock that night.

Realizing he has about five hours to kill before meeting Carl, Holden decides to go to a combination live show and movie at Radio City Music Hall. It is interesting that he decides to do this because he was revolted when the three women from Washington he met at The Lavender Room told him they were going to go to a Radio City Music Hall Show. He said the thought of the women coming all the way across the country just to go to a Radio City Music Hall show, made him want to kill himself. Nonetheless, Holden goes to the show, and predictably he finds the live show to be very phony. Holden believes the singing angels just want go on a break and smoke cigarettes. Holden imagines that if Jesus saw these angels he would be sick to his stomach. He remembers going to see this live Christmas show with his younger brother, Allie. They liked the guy playing the kettle drums. Holden says that if Jesus were going to be pleased with anybody in this show, it would be the kettledrum player.

Holden's advice to us regarding the movie he saw after the show is, "don't see it if you don't want to puke all over yourself." During the movie, which is about a recovering war veteran, Holden notices a woman crying at all the sad "phony" parts. He points out to us that although you would think that means she is a very sensitive, compassionate person, she is totally ignoring her little boy's pleas to go to the bathroom. It seems that Holden has a special radar for spotting phony people.

Once the movie ends, Holden heads over to the Wicker Room bar to meet Carl Luce. On his way, he starts thinking about the possibility of being drafted into the army. He tells us that he would rather be shot right away than have to spend such a long time in the army. D.B., Holden's older brother, felt the same way because he was in the army, and he saw a lot of action. He told Holden that the Army was full of people just as bad as the Nazis. Holden then tells us his feelings about War literature, like The Great Gatsby and A Farewell to Arms. He didn't like either of those novels.

Holden gets to the bar early and gets served, even though he is under-aged. Again, he makes observations about all the phony people in the place.

Holden gives us a little background information about his old academic advisor, Carl Luce. He says that Carl did not really advise anybody about school. All Carl would do is talk about sex and point out which students at the school were homosexuals. Holden suspects that Carl may have some of those inclinations himself.

When Carl shows up, he is rather reserved, and his attitude is very different than Holden's effusive, lively chatter. Holden cannot stop asking questions about Carl's life, and Carl tells Holden he is immature. Carl tells Holden that he is currently seeing an Asian woman in her 30's. This fact fascinates Holden, as does the fact that Chinese women view sex as both spiritual and physical. Holden says that he views sex that way too, but that he is not so sure how to accomplish it. He confesses to Carl that he is confused about how to proceed with a girl. He tells Carl that he has a hard time getting sexual with a girl he likes and respects, but does not want to get sexy with a girl unless he likes her. Carl does little to reassure him or tell him that Holden's feelings are very noble. Carl does agree that maybe his father, who is a psychoanalyst, could help him organize his thoughts.

Holden is disappointed when Carl leaves early, but tells us that he does not think much of Carl, anyway.

While Chapters 18 and 19 seem to just be about Holden trying to pass the time, we get a glimpse as to how lost he feels. He is very disillusioned with humanity as a whole, yet wants to make sense out of life's meaning. He is reaching out to try and connect with people. Holden looks up to Carl Luce, and he is very anxious to learn how Carl is living his life. Carl is cold and unyielding to Holden, and leaves him rather callously in the same insecure position that he found him.

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