Chapter 2 Notes from The Catcher in the Rye

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The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 2

Mr. Spencer, Holden's history teacher, has a case of "the grippe" (a bad cold), and is sitting in his bedroom in a ratty bathrobe, with his bare old man's chest jutting out, smelling of Vicks. This is almost more than Holden can take. Mr. Spencer grills Holden about being kicked out of Pencey and what his future now holds, an exchange that leaves Holden squirming in his seat (which happens to be Spencer's rock-hard bed). Holden has little need for Spencer's lecture, but he doesn't want to hurt his teacher's feelings by being short or ungracious. Still, he amends the clichés Spencer tosses at him, as in this response to Spencer's assessment that life is a game and must be played by the rules:

"Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it's a game, all right - I'll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren't any hot-shots, then what's a game about it? Nothing. No game." Chapter 2, pg. 8

Still, Holden listens and apologizes as Spencer tries to thrust the gravity of the situation on Holden by calling him "boy" and reading aloud Holden's response to his history exam, a two-paragraph essay on the ancient Egyptians. The response is so bad that Holden even added an apology note at the end of the essay. Holden's troubles are beginning to sound a little more complicated, too--this is the fourth school, he tells Mr. Spencer, that he's been kicked out of, and the world seems to him distressingly full of "phonies." He knows he's beyond Mr. Spencer's help and tells him not to worry. "'I'm just going through a phase right now. Everybody goes through phases and all, don't they?'" Chapter 2, pg. 15

Topic Tracking: Empathy 1
Topic Tracking: Phonies 1

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