The Catcher in the Rye Questions and Answers
by J. D. Salinger

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In The Catcher in the Rye how does Sally take Holden's proposal in Chapter 17?

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In chapter 17, Holden is on a date with Sally Hayes, who is portrayed as a superficial, materialistic girl, and they decide to go skating at Radio City. After briefly skating on the ice, Holden and Sally go into the bar and Holden proceeds to have a mental breakdown. Holden starts off by asking Sally if she ever feels fed up with life and begins lamenting about school, his phony classmates, New York City, and the entertainment industry. Holden then suggests to Sally that they leave New York City in the morning and travel to Massachusetts and Vermont. Holden mentions that he has $180 before telling Sally that they can get married and live together in a cabin for a while until the money runs out. Holden also tells Sally that when the money runs out, he will get a job and they can enjoy living isolated in the middle of the wilderness.

Sally is taken back by Holden's spontaneous, outrageous proposal and says, "You can’t just do something like that." When Holden asks why not, Sally rationally responds by saying,

Because you can’t, that’s all. In the first place, we’re both practically children. And did you ever stop to think what you’d do if you didn’t get a job when your money ran out? We’d starve to death. The whole thing’s so fantastic[...].

Holden refuses to agree with Sally's rational perspective and ends up calling her a "royal pain in the ass," which upsets Sally, who ends up leaving in tears.

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accessteacher eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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As Holden sways from one plan to escape the restrictions of society to another, he hits upon an excellent (to his mind at least) idea to just run away and live in nature with Sally and get married. However, it is clear that Sally is less than impressed by Holden's genius, and clearly she sees it for something of what it is: an escape from reality borne out of Holden's frustrations of life. Note how she responds initially to the proposal:

"You can't just do something like that," old Sally sad. She sounded sore as hell.

Clearly she is not as rootless and without connections as Holden feels he is and doesn't feel that she can just up and leave everything behind her in the way that Holden feels he can. She says they are too young and points out the romantic element of Holden's plan, saying that his idea is "fantastic." She believes that mad plans like this should wait until after college. Of course, through the process of arguing about it they begin to hate each other.

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