Chapters 12–15 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1544

Chapter 12

Holden takes a cab and, looking out the window, describes how “lonesome” it is in New York late at night. He asks the cab driver, Horwitz, where the ducks in Central Park go in the winter. Horwitz is impatient with Holden’s questions, but they discuss where the fish and the ducks go when the lake in Central Park is iced over in winter. Holden asks Horwitz to have a drink with him somewhere, but Horwitz declines.

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Ernie’s club is full of people. When Holden arrives, Ernie is playing the piano. Holden is annoyed by Ernie’s “show-offy” playing and becomes depressed by the cheering crowd. He considers leaving, but decides to stay because he doesn’t want to be alone.

Holden eavesdrops on the people around him, including an “Ivy League bastard” who is telling his date about a boy in his dorm who committed suicide while also “giving her a feel under the table.”

Holden begins to feel alone and asks the waiter to ask Ernie to join him for a drink.

Suddenly, Holden is greeted by Lillian Simmons, a girl that used to date Holden’s older brother, D.B. Lillian, whom Holden describes as “strictly a phony,” asks about D.B.’s life in Hollywood. Lillian introduces Holden to “the Navy guy” she is with and asks Holden to join them. He declines, saying that he was just about to leave. After lying to Lillian, Holden feels that he has no choice but to leave.

Chapter 13

Walking back to the hotel, Holden puts on his hunting hat and wishes that he knew who’d “swiped” his gloves at Pencey. He admits that even if he did know, he wouldn’t have done very much about it. Holden describes himself as “yellow” and imagines the scene if he had confronted the person who stole his gloves.

Holden reflects that part of his “yellowness” is the fact that he doesn’t mind when he loses things. Another part of it is that he hates fist fights; in a fist fight, he “can’t stand looking at the other guy’s face.”

Holden feels depressed, so he decides to have a drink somewhere. He starts to go into a bar but then decides to go back to the hotel.

The empty lobby depresses Holden to the point that “[he] almost wished [he] was dead.” The elevator attendant, Maurice, offers to send a prostitute to Holden’s room. Without thinking, Holden agrees.

In his hotel room, Holden prepares for the prostitute’s arrival and admits that he is a virgin. Despite having had different opportunities to lose his virginity, Holden says his problem is that, unlike “most guys,” he actually stops when a girl tells him to stop. Holden decides that having sex with a prostitute might be a good chance to “practice” sexually.

The prostitute seems nervous and appears to be around the same age as Holden. She takes off her dress, but instead of feeling aroused, Holden feels depressed.

Holden asks the prostitute, Sunny, if she wants to talk for a while. Holden tries to maintain a conversation and then admits that he doesn’t want to have sex but is still willing to pay her. Sunny tries to seduce him, but Holden lies, claiming that he is recovering from an operation. When Holden pays her the agreed amount of five dollars, Sunny argues that it is actually ten, but Holden refuses to pay more than five.

Sunny coldly puts her dress back on and leaves.

Chapter 14

After Sunny leaves, Holden notices that the sun is beginning to come up. He feels very depressed, and begins to talk to his brother Allie. He remembers a time when he refused to let Allie join him and his friend Bobby on their bikes. Even though Allie “didn’t get sore about it,” the incident keeps returning to Holden’s mind.

Holden feels like praying, but he can’t because he is “sort of an atheist.” While he likes Jesus, he dislikes Jesus’s disciples and most ministers. Holden recalls how he used to argue with a classmate about whether or not Judas would have been sent to hell after he committed suicide.

Holden hears a knock on his hotel room door. He opens it to find Sunny and Maurice, “the pimpy elevator guy.” Maurice insists that Holden owes Sunny five more dollars. Maurice shoves him so that he and Sunny can enter the room.

Holden refuses to give them the five dollars. Maurice shoves Holden against the door and Sunny takes the five dollars from Holden’s wallet. When they steal the money, Holden begins to cry. Sunny tells Maurice that they should go, but Maurice lingers. Holden insults him, and Maurice punches Holden in the stomach before leaving.

Holden lays on the floor, and for a moment he thinks he is dying. On his way to the bathroom, he pretends that he has been shot and fantasizes about shooting Maurice.

Holden takes a bath and goes back to bed. Even though he feels like committing suicide by jumping out of the window, the thought of people seeing him “all gory” prevents him from doing it. He eventually falls asleep.

Chapter 15

Holden wakes up and, although he is hungry, decides not to call down for breakfast for fear of seeing Maurice again. He thinks about calling Jane Gallagher but decides to call Sally Hayesinstead. Even though Sally gives Holden “a pain in the ass,” he asks her to go to a matinee with him and she agrees.

Holden takes a cab to Grand Central Station, checks his bags, and goes to a sandwich bar for breakfast. While he is there, two nunssit down next to him. Their inexpensive suitcases remind him of Dick Slagle, a former roommate who used to keep his cheap suitcases under his bed rather than next to Holden’s expensive ones.

Holden strikes up a conversation with the nuns and discovers that one of them is an English teacher. She asks Holden about what he has read in English the past year. Holden gives them ten dollars for their collection. The nuns leave after refusing to allow Holden to pay for their meal as well. Holden reflects that he enjoyed their conversation, despite the fact that he was nervous that they would try to find out if he was Catholic. He feels sorry that he hadn’t given them more money for charity.

Analysis 

Throughout the novel, Holden reveals various points of inner tension. One of these is his discomfort with his own wealth and status. While Holden despises “the Ivy League bastards” at Ernie’s, in reality he is on the path to becoming one. He admits that his father wants him to go to Yale or Princeton. Holden’s disdain for the wealthy college students he sees inadvertantly expresses his fears about his own future.

Recalling his experience with Dick Slagle, a former roommate, Holden notes how self-conscious he is about his wealth, particularly how it separates him from others. He explains that “it’s really hard to be roommates with people if your suitcases are much better than theirs.” Deep down, Holden believes that others always care about class.

Holden’s experience with the nuns further develops this theme of wealth, but it also stands in contrast to his experience with Dick. Unlike Dick, the nuns don’t appear to long for wealth in any way. Their kindness and contentment intrigue Holden. Holden feels awkward around them; he tries to pay for their meal, but they refuse, and he insists on giving to their charity. After they leave, he regrets that he had not given more, saying: “[Money] always ends up making you blue as hell.”

The themes of sexuality and suicide are also developed in this section. These themes are woven together when Holden sees a man at the bar “giving [his date] a feel” under the table while telling her about a boy in his dorm who committed suicide. Later, after his experience with the prostitute depresses Holden, he admits that he feels like committing suicide by jumping out of a window. When considering the fate of Judas, Holden is focused on whether or not Judas would have been sent to hell after his suicide, rather than after his betrayal of Christ. These events lead readers to wonder how seriously Holden is considering suicide.

Holden is increasingly disillusioned by sex. He is drawn to and repulsed by sex at the same time. Holden’s feelings of shame around sex are also evident in his curiosity and confusion toward the nuns. Holden admires the nuns but also wonders how a nun can teach English books with “a lot of sexy stuff in them.”

More than his desire for sex, Holden is deeply lonely and desires companionship. He continues to ask strangers to share a drink with him, even those he dislikes. Yet when Lillian Simmons, an actual acquaintance, invites him for a drink, Holden declines. This type of indecision and melancholy is evident throughout this section. Holden is unsatisfied by everyone and everything, and he frequently changes his plans and decisions.

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Chapters 8–11 Summary and Analysis

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Chapters 16–19 Summary and Analysis