Why is the bar in The Catcher in the Rye important? Does it represent cultural criticism? How?
Setting is very important in Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye because Holden either experiences or learns something profound at almost every place. Holden rides trains and cabs, walks the street, stays in the bad part of town, and participates in conversations with all walks of life from nuns to prostitutes. Holden goes to the Wicker Bar to meet and older, former classmate. He has socialized with all kinds of people who disappoint him so far, and at this point in the story, he's going to try to fit in with someone he actually looks up to, named Carl Luce. He describes the bar in the following way:
". . . the Wicker Bar is in this sort of swanky hotel, the Seton Hotel. . . It's one of those places that are supposed to be very sophisticated and all, and the phonies are coming in the window" (141).
Holden goes on to criticize the French girls who play and sing each night, the bartender who is apparently a "louse," (142) and the audience who simply cheers for everything. Holden believes the whole place is fake and swimming with fake people. This is how Holden views society and the culture he lives around. Bars, in many places, are the social centers for the community. One goes there to feel accepted among those of the same class. In this case, the Wicker Bar represents upper-class society and Holden does his best to fit in there with Luce, but ultimately fails. If the bar represents society, this would suggest that Holden would not fit in as he is, and that would be very upsetting for him.