How is Holden kind to the nuns at breakfast? What does this reveal about his character in The Catcher in the Rye?

Holden is kind to the nuns at breakfast by giving them a hand with their suitcases, picking up a dropped collection basket, and donating ten dollars to their charity. What this reveals about Holden's character is that he's instinctively drawn towards those he deems not to be phony. He likes the nuns and wants to help them because, unlike Sally Hayes's mother, for example, they're genuine people.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Holden is eating breakfast at a little sandwich bar at the train station when a couple of nuns come in and sit down next to him. The nuns are carrying suitcases, and it seems to Holden as if they're moving to another convent and are waiting for their train.

In any case, they don't appear to know what to do with their suitcases, so Holden gives them a hand. Holden also helps one of the nuns by picking up a collection basket that she accidentally drops. For good measure, he generously donates ten dollars to the charity for which the nuns are collecting.

What this episode illustrates is that Holden is instinctively drawn to people he perceives as being genuine. In other words, he likes those who are not phony. One reason why he likes the nuns is that he can't imagine them going anywhere swanky for lunch. He compares them favorably in this regard to Sally Hayes's mother, who, according to Holden, is a real phony.

Holden is sure that if Sally Hayes's mother were collecting for charity like the nuns she'd soon get bored, hand in her basket, and go someplace swanky for lunch. The nuns aren't like that; they're not phonies, and that's why Holden likes them.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial