Why does Holden lie to Mr. Spencer about having to get his gym equipment from the gym?'Catcher in the Rye' - J.D. Salinger

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Holden has visited Mr Spencer at Spencer’s request. Holden has ‘flunked’ four out of the five classes he has taken at Pencey (including Mr Spencer’s History class) and he is initially saying his goodbyes.

 Holden is first disturbed by Mr Spencer’s attire.

 ‘The minute I went in, I was sorry I’d come.’

Mr Spencer has the ‘grippe’ and is dressed in an old bathrobe which reveals his wrinkled skin. Holden is made uncomfortable by this,  Mr Spencer’s nose picking and his physical weakness; he tries repeatedly to throw a magazine onto the bed but cannot do it.

Holden becomes embarrassed and irritated by Mr Spencer who lectures him and reads from Holden’s failed exam paper, illustrating how inadequate he is.

 ‘He started handling my exam paper like it was a turd or something.’

Mr Spencer is unable to see that his words have no effect and that Holden himself is not sure why he cannot comply with the school expectations. He recounts Holden’s previous failures at other schools which further irritates him.

Finally Holden makes the excuse that he needs to collect his equipment from the gym to cut short the meeting and end the lecture.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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