Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1414
After leaving Pencey, Holden walks to the train station and boards a train. A woman boards the train and sits beside him. She notices his Pencey Prep sticker and explains that she is the mother of one of Holden’s classmates, Ernest Morrow.
Holden lies to the woman about his own name and tells her that her son is very popular at school. In reality, Ernest is “a rat” who is always “snapping his soggy old wet towel at people’s asses” after taking a shower.
Holden enjoys Ernest’s mother and even notices that she has “quite a lot of sex appeal.” They smoke together, but she declines Holden’s invitation to join him for a cocktail. When Mrs. Morrowasks why Holden has left school early, Holden tells her that he needs to go home because he has a brain tumor that needs to be removed. Their conversation trails off, but before she gets off the train Mrs. Morrow invites Holden to visit them over the summer. Holden lies again, saying that he can’t because he will be going to see his grandmother in South America.
Holden gets off the train and goes into a phone booth. He considers various people he could call—his brother D.B., his younger sister Phoebe, a few different friends—but decides against each option. He leaves the phone booth and gets a cab.
Holden annoys the cab driver by giving him the wrong address and by asking about the ducks in Central Park. He invites the driver to join him for a cocktail, but the driver declines. Holden arrives at the Edmont Hotel and checks in.
Holden dislikes the hotel, describing his room as “crumby” and the other patrons as “perverts and morons.” Looking out the window, he sees a man in one of the other rooms dressing as a woman and a couple squirting water at each other.
Holden reflects on his own desires to do “crumby stuff” with girls, and his history of breaking different “sex rules” that he makes for himself. “Sex is something I just don’t understand,” he concludes.
Holden decides to call a number that someone had given him at a party; the number is for Faith Cavendish, a girl that “wasn’t exactly a whore… but that didn’t mind doing it once in a while.”
Although Faith Cavendish is initially irritated by being disturbed so late at night, she becomes friendlier when they discuss their mutual acquaintance. Holden asks if they can meet for a cocktail, and she declines.
Holden decides to change his clothes and go to the Lavender Room, the nightclub in the hotel. He is tempted to call his ten-year-old sister Phoebe, describing her as “pretty” and “smart” and “somebody you always felt like talking to on the phone.” Despite his longing to talk with Phoebe, Holden is afraid that his parents will answer the phone, so he goes to the Lavender Room instead.
Holden dislikes the band that is playing and most of the people in the club. At the table beside him sit three women from Seattle; he initially describes them all as “pretty ugly,” but then decides that the blonde is “sort of cute.”
Holden tries to order alcohol, but the waiter refuses. Holden convinces the three women to dance with him, and he dances with the blonde first. Although he thinks she is a very good dancer and even feels “half in love with her” at moments, he considers her to be “dopey.” Holden dances with the other two women, lies to them about seeing a movie star in the club, and buys them some drinks. The three women leave abruptly, saying they need to get up early to see the first show at Radio City Music Hall. This depresses Holden, and he leaves the nightclub shortly thereafter.
On his way to the hotel lobby, Holden gets “Jane Gallagher on the brain again” and sits down in a chair to think. He recalls how they met and the summer they spent together as neighbors in Maine. Holden knows “old Jane like a book.” Although he wouldn’t describe Jane as “strictly beautiful,” Holden admits his attraction to her. He remembers her mannerisms and interests and how they spent time playing golf and checkers. During their time together, Holden tells Jane about his brother Allie and shows her his baseball mitt.
One day, while playing checkers, they are interrupted by Jane’s “booze hound” stepfather, who asks her if there are any cigarettes in the house. Jane ignores him until he leaves; after he is gone, she begins to cry. Holden kisses her all over her face but not her mouth. He asks her if Mr. Cudahy “ever tried to get wise with her,” and Jane says no. Holden never finds out why she cried.
Besides Holden kissing her in that moment, the only other physical contact they shared was holding hands and, once, Jane putting her hand on the back of Holden’s neck during a movie.
Holden begins to think about Jane on a date with Stradlater and the thought of it “[drives him] crazy.” He realizes that there is hardly anybody left in the lobby, which he finds depressing, so he decides to go to a nightclub called Ernie’s.
In this section, the novel’s theme of sexuality is further developed. Holden has mixed feelings about sex. He is disgusted by the “perverts” he sees in the hotel and their sexual behavior. Holden’s anger toward those he sees as sexually perverse is demonstrated in this section and further developed in later parts of the novel.
Immediately after these reflections on the other hotel guests, however, Holden is undoubtedly interested in sex. He tries to call Faith Cavendish in an attempt to secure her company. Holden’s hypocrisy—breaking his own ideals and “sex rules”—demonstrates the feelings of shame that he has around his own sexuality. Holden’s suspicion that Jane’s stepfather has sexually abused Jane also ties into the thematic relationship between sexuality and loss of innocence.
Holden’s attraction to women older than himself, such as the blonde woman in the nightclub and even his classmate’s mother, are in sharp contrast to his relationship with Jane Gallagher. Founded in friendship, his relationship with Jane is genuine and age-appropriate. He views Jane as a full person, recalling her unique characteristics and mannerisms. Instead of viewing her as an object of sexual desire, Holden feels protective of Jane and asks her if her stepfather has ever tried to “get wise” with her. While Holden frequently lies to other women, he and Jane share their emotions openly; Holden tells her about Allie, and comforts Jane when she cries.
In Holden’s mental state, however, he cannot bring himself to confront the relationships that would demand his own vulnerability. He is lonely and repeatedly asks strangers to have a cocktail with him, but he will not call friends and relatives who truly care about him. While he wants to call Jane, but repeatedly avoids it, Holden is able to call Faith Cavendish. While he longs to talk with his ten-year-old sister, Holden instead poses as an adult, pursuing the shallow company of strangers.
Despite Holden’s disdain for adult “phoniness,” Holden himself constructs lies, refrains from sharing his honest thoughts, and tries to present himself as an adult. While Holden sets out this false persona, readers are given clues that other characters are not fooled. After Holden tells her an elaborate lie about a brain tumor, Ernest Morrow’s mother lets their conversation dwindle, perhaps a sign that she doesn’t believe him. Although Holden interprets the women at the nightclub’s behavior as “ignorant,” it appears that it is Holden who is ignorant of the women’s obvious social cues. Their lack of interest in his conversation, their habit of looking past him, their lack of invitation to sit with them, and their abrupt exit signal to readers that Holden is intruding on their evening. It is also obvious that the women, along with the waiter, easily recognize that Holden is a teenager.
Holden’s inability to pick up on these social cues and his belief that he presents his lies convincingly demonstrate his lack of self-awareness and his tenuous grasp of the adult world.
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