In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, how does Holden percieve Carl Luce in Chapter 19?  

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pmiranda2857's profile pic

pmiranda2857 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Holden looks up to Carl Luce, a former schoolmate of Holden's when he attended the Whooten School.  Luce is older than Holden.  He was,  in fact, very excited to meet him because he really needed to talk to someone about how he was feeling about being kicked out of Pencey Prep. But when he tries to talk to Carl Luce about his problems, Luce is not interested in listening to Holden complain.  He recommends that Holden see his father a psychoanalyst for help.

Instead of talking about Holden's problems, Holden grills Luce on his romantic life, getting very personal with his questions about his sex life with his Oriental girlfriend.  Luce gets really mad at Holden and has no interest in spending any more time with him than necessary. 

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Carl Luce was one of Holden's student counselors at the Whooton School. Holden admired Luce at the time because he told him about his sexual exploits rather than advising him with school. Holden thinks that when he meets up with Luce again they will be able to talk like they did in school. However, things have changed for Luce. He's more mature, he's moved on from high school and from all of the mystifying curiosities of adolescence. Holden's questions about his sex life actually bore and annoy Luce because Holden seems so immature from his current situation in life. Therefore, Holden doesn't understand why Luce would say things like the following:

"Oh, God! . . . Is this going to be a typical Caulfield conversation? I want to know right now . . . Must we pursue this horrible trend of thought?" (145).

One might wonder at this point whether maybe it wasn't Luce who always talked about sex with Holden; maybe it was the other way around. Holden is confused with Luce's response because he remembers Luce pushing him to talk about his personal life; so why wouldn't he be as open with Holden now?

Holden does remember that Luce used to care only about what he had to say about sex, and if the boys hung around after that to "chew the fat," Luce would kick them out. Holden realizes that maybe Luce was afraid of someone saying something smarter than what he had said. By the end of the conversation at the Wicker Bar, though, Luce tells Holden to get a psychological analysis. Holden leaves feeling like Luce has turned into "a pain in the ass" with a very good vocabulary (149).


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