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Who is Mr. Spencer and why does Holden visit him in The Catcher in the Rye?

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andrews1992 | Student | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 12, 2011 at 1:08 AM via web

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Who is Mr. Spencer and why does Holden visit him in The Catcher in the Rye?

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 12, 2011 at 1:52 AM (Answer #1)

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Mr. Spencer is Holden Caulfield's favorite teacher at Pencey Prep. Holden decides to pay him a visit to say goodbye after having once again flunked out of school. Mr. Spencer is Holden's history teacher, from whom Holden received a failing grade, and Spencer has sent Holden a note requesting that he come by his home before leaving town. Holden genuinely likes the old gentleman, one of the few characters in the novel who Holden appreciates, and Spencer likes Holden. But the visit soon turns sour when Spencer begins to lecture his student about responsibility and the need for a good education. Spencer, who is ill, repulses Holden when he greets him in a bathrobe, exposing the old man's withered limbs. Holden is polite to his teacher, but he cuts the visit short when the conversation becomes too serious.

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted December 29, 2014 at 5:16 PM (Answer #2)

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Mr. Spencer was Holden's history teacher at Percy Prep. He was the only teacher Holden liked. Holden flunked all of his classes, but he seemed to like his history class. Mr. Spencer was the one man he respected while he was there. 

Holden goes to visit Mr. Spence and tell him good-bye. Holden has been kicked out of the school so he wants to see his teacher one last time. Mr. Spencer is getting older and is home sick with the flu. When Holden sees Mr. Spencer, he is put off by how old and frail the man looks. He tries to overlook this, but finds it difficult to do so. Mr. Spence begins to lecture Holden about flunking his classes and tells Holden he needs to think about his future. This is interesting because throughout the entire book, Holden lives in the past. Holden gets fed up with Mr. Spencer lecturing him so he tells him good-bye and leaves. As he leaves he thinks about Mr. Spencer bringing up his paper about Egyptians. He was furious that the old man would bring that up to him.

"He put my damn paper down then and looked at me like he'd just beaten hell out of me in ping-pong or something. I don't think I'll ever forgive him for reading me that crap out loud. I wouldn't've read it out loud to him if he'd written it- I really wouldn't in the first place. I'd only written that damn note so that he wouldn't feel too bad about flunking me."

Although he felt something for Mr. Spencer, Holden was still stuck living in the past. He wouldn't forgive anyone he felt had wronged him. Mr. Spencer was one of the few people who really cared for Holden and only wanted what was best for him.

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