Why wouldn't Holden be back to Pencey after Christmas vacation in The Catcher in the Rye?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden won’t be going back to school at Pencey because he has been expelled. He explains early in the story that he flunked four out of five subjects. The only class in which he received a passing grade was in English. He tells Mr. Spencer that he didn’t have to do any work in that class because he had already read most of the assigned reading at Whooton School, the last school he was expelled from. “I didn’t have to do any work in English at all hardly,” he tells the old teacher, “except write compositions once in a while.”

The author J.D. Salinger emphasizes that Holden has a talent for writing compositions. Stradlater, his roommate, is one of the students who know about Holden’s writing talent, which is why he asks him to write a composition for him. Salinger was concerned abut verisimilitude. He wanted to make it seem plausible that Holden could write an entire book about his experiences in New York and how they changed his life.

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Holden will not be returning to the illustrious Pencey Prep School in Pennsylvania, because he has been expelled for failing all of his classes except English.  On the surface, Holden is not too rattled by this recent expulsion, partly because he gets expelled on a regular basis, but also because Holden views Pencey Prep as being full of phoniness.  Holding is disgusted by the school and its Headmaster Thurmer whom he describes as a "bastard" (Chapter 1).  Even though Holden admittedly hates his current school, he is sensitive enough to feel regret at leaving some of the people he has met at Pencey:

"When I leave a place, I like to know I'm leaving it. If you don't, you feel even worse" (Chapter 1).

Holden hangs around to say goodbye; his actions suggest that this latest expulsion is a disappointment, even though Holden's words pretend otherwise.

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The Catcher in the Rye

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