The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis
by J. D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye book cover
Start Your Free Trial

Download The Catcher in the Rye Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Chapter 20 Summary and Analysis

Luce escapes from the irascible Holden. Holden remains at the bar, watches the entertainment, and gets drunk. Because he is drunk and under age, he is careful not to draw attention to himself. He once again begins to fantasize about having a bullet in his stomach. Holden decides to call Jane Gallagher and leaves the bar. But as one might expect, he changes his mind because he is not “in the mood.” Instead, he calls Sally Hayes and tells her that he will come to her house on Christmas Eve and help decorate the tree. Afterwards, though, he regrets having made the call. In an effort to become sober, he goes into a restroom and dunks his head in a sink of cold water. Still feeling depressed and lonely, he goes to the checkroom and gets his coat and the record he purchased for Phoebe. Holden walks to Central Park to see what has happened to the ducks. As he arrives at the park, he drops Phoebe’s record and it breaks on the ground. Clearly upset, he picks up the pieces of the record, puts them in his pocket, and walks into the park. He finds the lagoon, but there are no ducks. As Holden sits shivering on a bench, he worries that he will come down with pneumonia and die. This leads him to thinking about his funeral and that of his brother, Allie. Holden feels sorry for his mother and father, particularly his mother since she is still grieving for Allie. The whole notion of being buried with dead people and visitors coming to the cemetery is troubling to him. Holden becomes obsessed thinking about how devastated Phoebe would be if he died. The thought of her grieving drives him to go see her at once, in effect, to finally go home.

Discussion and Analysis
The tension and anxiety within Holden are building to a climax in this chapter. He reacts negatively to absolutely everyone and every situation. Valencia does not sing well. The headwaiter probably will not deliver his message (people never give your message to anybody). He calls Sally, then regrets having called her. Holden looks at himself and sees a wounded...

(The entire section is 568 words.)