The Catcher in the Rye Chapters 16–19 Summary and Analysis
by J. D. Salinger

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Chapters 16–19 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 16

Holden finishes his lunch around noon, with two hours left before he is scheduled to meet Sally Hayes. He thinks about the nuns he met and compares them to the wealthy women in his life.

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Holden begins to walk toward Broadway. He plans to buy a record for his sister Phoebe and then bring it to the park where she regularly skates on Sundays. Holden sees a family that “looked sort of poor” walking together. As he walks next to the curb, the six-year-old boy sings, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” Watching the family and hearing the boy sing makes Holden feel “not so depressed anymore.”

The crowds and line-ups on Broadway depress Holden. He finds the record he is looking for and buys it. He calls Jane Gallagher but hangs up when her mother answers the phone. Holden buys theater tickets, reflecting that shows are “not as bad as movies, but they’re certainly nothing to rave about.” He explains that he hates actors because they “never act like people” and recalls a production of Hamlet he saw with D.B.

Holden takes a taxi to the park to find Phoebe. He goes to the spot where she regularly skates. He sees other children there but can’t find her. He asks a girl if he knows Phoebe Caulfield. She does, and she mentions “the museum” as Phoebe’s likely location. Holden helps the girl tighten her skates and asks if she would like to have a hot chocolate with him, but she declines.

Holden walks to the Museum of Natural History. He remembers going to the museum as a child with his class. He states, “the best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was.” Even though the children walking through the museum would change, the museum was always the same. Holden wishes that some things could be kept in a glass case to stay the way they are.

When Holden finally arrives at the museum, he suddenly doesn’t feel like going in at all. Instead, he takes a taxi to the Biltmore to meet Sally.

Chapter 17

Arriving early, Holden sits on a couch and watches girls. He becomes depressed thinking about “what the hell would happen to all of them” and what kind of “dopey guys” they would marry. He reflects that maybe it’s not so bad. Even if they marry boring men, perhaps the men would have redeeming qualities, like being “terrific whistlers or something.”

When Sally arrives, Holden feels infatuated with her. In the taxi, he tells her he loves her; he admits that “it was a lie” but that, in the moment, he meant it.

Sally and Holden watch a show, and during the intermission they encounter an “Ivy League guy” that Sally knows. Holden is annoyed by their “phony” conversation, and by the time the show is over, he “sort of [hates] old Sally.”

At Sally’s suggestion, they go ice-skating at Radio City. They both struggle to skate, so they go to the bar to get drinks. Holden asks Sally if she ever gets “fed up.” He begins to vent about everything he hates about living in New York, talking to “phony” people, and attending boys’ schools. Sally keeps asking him to lower his voice and agrees with Holden when he admits that he’s “in lousy shape.”

Holden proposes that they drive north together, stay in a cabin, and get married. Sally refuses, and Holden becomes depressed thinking about his life after college. They begin to argue, and Holden apologizes after he makes her cry. He apologizes again after he begins laughing. Sally refuses to let Holden take her home, so he eventually leaves without her.

Chapter 18

After leaving the skating rink, Holden considers calling Jane Gallagher to see if she will go dancing with him. He reflects on the time that he saw her dancing; she was dating someone else whom she claimed “had an inferiority complex.” He calls Jane but there is no answer.

Holden decides to call Carl Luce, an old classmate about three years older than him; Carl agrees to meet him that night for a drink.

Holden goes to the movies. He is...

(The entire section is 1,427 words.)