Why is the scene of Holden's meeting with Luce in the Wicker Bar important in The Catcher in the Rye?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This episode occurs in Chapter Nineteen of this excellent coming-of-age novel, and it represents yet another attempt of Holden Caulfield to reach out and connect with someone and gain guidance in his situation. This time, however, he chooses Luce, who was a sexual expert when they were at school together and told the younger boys all about sex. Holden thinks that there is something quite "flitty" about Luce, even though apparently he is interested in women. As they meet, Holden seems to want to question Luce about sex and sexuality and is clearly looking for some kind of mature guidance, but he approaches the topic by displaying his immaturity:

"What're you majoring in?" I asked him. "Perverts?" I was only horsing around.

Luce refuses to respond to such jibes and after he leaves, Holden is left to feel somewhat disappointed with himself, even though he claims that Luce is a phony, suggesting that he really wanted to connect with him. Note Holden's appeal as Luce is leaving:

"Have just one more drink," I told him. "Please. I'm lonesome as hell. No kidding."

We need to remember how this event fits into the novel as a whole. We are presented with a series of interactions that Holden has where he tries to connect with others, but with each failure, Holden loses more faith both with humanity and with himself and is more and more desperate to connect and break the cycle of loneliness from which he suffers. Note the way that after Luce leaves, Holden tries to hit on two girls and then bursts into tears before leaving to walk in the freezing cold.

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