Chapter 17 Notes from The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 17

Holden's still a little early for his date, so he heads into their meeting spot and girl-watches until his date arrives. Sally looks good, and Holden, spontaneous as ever, feels like marrying her right then and there. The two take a cab to the theater, making out a bit on the way, and Holden even tells Sally he loves her. She says the same, though also advises him, in the same breath, to get a more stylish haircut.

The play more or less gets on Holden's nerves, though he seems interested in articulating why the actors don't please him. They're like Ernie, the piano player in the Village, he says--so good that they've started showing off instead of doing their job in a genuine and heartfelt way. What makes the whole experience worse is the appearance of some phony friend of Sally's who captures her attention during both intermissions. The two of them name-drop and ignore Holden's presence. By the time they get in the cab after the show, Holden has grown to "sort of hate old Sally...." (pg. 128)

Topic Tracking: Phonies 8

There seems to be a chance that the evening will be salvaged, for Sally asks Holden if he wants to continue the date with a little ice skating at Rockefeller Center. Sally's up for this mainly so that she can wear her short little ice-skating skirt. She looks stylish at least while she's falling down all over the place. She and Holden spend most of the time on their rear ends, and they finally cut the torture and go inside for a drink.

Their conversation is in the typical superficial rut at first, though Holden, presumably exasperated with all this phoniness, finally bursts out and asks Sally if she ever gets fed up, whether she hates school. Sally is a clear fence-rider, a complainer but one who's not up for breaking any rules. As Holden, excited to finally vent some of his exasperation, gets crazier, louder and more critical, she gets more and more uncomfortable. Holden gives his clearest condemnation of boys' school.

"'It's full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day, and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques.'" Chapter 17, pg. 131

Holden goes on, to Sally's horror, and gets so worked up that he invites her to flee with him to Massachusetts or Vermont. This is the last thing in the world that the budding socialite Sally is interested in, though she tries to let Holden, who seems to be acting a bit the madman, down softly. Holden is confrontational enough, however, that she loses her manners, too. Finally, they're about to leave and Holden tells Sally that she's a royal pain in the ass. This seals his fate, and he's soon out on the street, having left his date to find her own way home.

Topic Tracking: Empathy 8
Topic Tracking: Innocence 7

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