The Catcher in the Rye: Novel Summary: Chapter 6-10
Chapter 6: Chapter six marks a major turning point for Holden. This turning point is found in the physical struggle between Holden and Stradlater. After Stradlater returns from his date with Jane, he asks Holden if he’s written his composition for him. Stradlater reads the paper and quickly shoots it down, saying that a description of a baseball glove isn’t what the teacher wants. Holden is deeply hurt by this, and turns bitter toward Stradlater, feeling not only a rejection of the paper he wrote, but indeed a rejection of his brother, Allie. This encounter serves to further confuse Holden about who his role-models should be and extends his disillusionment with society in general.
The second factor which leads to the fight between the two teens is the "professional secret" comment by Stradlater. When Holden asks Stradlater if he gave Jane, his childhood sweetheart, "the time" (meaning did she lose her virginity to him), Stradlater shrugs it off by saying that it’s a "professional secret." This enrages the already annoyed Holden, yet he can’t articulate the anger he feels. Holden admits that he doesn’t remember the following events too well. He just says that he knows he tries to punch Stradlater in the mouth but misses and soon finds himself on the floor. To further anger Stradlater, Holden calls him names, acknowledging, "I told him he didn’t even care if a girl kept all her kings in the back row or not, and the reason he didn’t care was because he was a goddam stupid moron."
Again, Holden’s mouth gets him in trouble. Although he can’t really explain to the reader why he is so angry, he is quick to judge Stradlater, calling him a "goddam stupid moron." But it’s not the kings in the back row that really concerns Holden, it’s the fact that he can’t protect the virgin innocence of Jane. Yet at this point in the story even Holden doesn’t realize what has enraged him so.
The rest of the chapter deals with Holden’s reaction to his own bloody face. He explains that the sight of so much blood and gore both scared and frightened him. Although he doesn’t understand it himself, the reason he seems to find a morbid fascination in the sight is because subconsciously he sees himself as a martyr for Jane. Deep down he likes the idea of being punished for the sins of Stradlater and Jane.
Chapter 7: Salinger’s seventh chapter serves as a transition from the fight with Stradlater to Holden’s departure from Pencey Prep. After the fight, Holden decides to take refuge in Ackley’s adjoining room next-door. Of course he does this very late at night, so Ackley is already sleeping or at least trying to sleep. Holden wakes him and asks if he can sleep in the bed of Ackley’s roommate. This annoys Ackley, but he doesn’t make Holden leave. Soon Ackley asks Holden about the fight but Holden lies about it, saying that he was defending Ackley’s reputation. Here, as in earlier scenes, Holden seeks the path of least resistance, conforming and adapting his attitude depending on whom he is with.
During the night, Holden asks Ackley, a Catholic, about the requirements to join a monastery. But soon Holden dismisses this notion as silly, since he’d probably join a monastery "with the wrong kind of monks in it." Here, Holden’s lack of self-confidence is again revealed. Soon Holden returns to his dorm to pack his bags when he notices brand-new ice skates that his mother has just sent. This reminds him of home and his parents’ expectations for him, most of which he hasn’t lived up to. He becomes depressed, explaining, "Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad."
Eventually, Holden leaves the dorm with all his belongings. This is more than a physical departure, but really also psychological one— Holden is attempting to leave his past and embark on his future, hoping to find his place in the world. After exiting the door to the dormitory, he wakes nearly everyone by screaming, "Sleep tight, ya morons!"
Chapter 8: In this chapter, Holden gets on a train to New York city, where he plans to spend a few days in a hotel before going home. During the trip he ends up meeting the mother of one of the "bast***s" he goes to school with at Pencey Prep. In order to protect his identity, Holden lies about his name but decides to "shoot the bull" with her for awhile. One of the ways he shoots the bull is by flattering the woman about her son. Holden tells her how modest and shy her son is, when in fact he thinks of him as one of the most "conceited bast***s" in the whole school. He also lies to her about how sensitive and caring the boy is. Yet Holden admits to the reader, "That guy Morrow was about as sensitive as a toilet seat."
In this way, Morrow’s mother is given an impression of him that is totally contradictory to everything Holden really believes. Yet, like before, Holden is more than willing to sacrifice the truth in exchange for the sense of innocence he tries so hard to preserve. Holden, who sees himself as the catcher in the rye, has made it his number one goal to protect others, even those he doesn’t care for, from the harshness of reality.
Later, in order to escape the invitation of Morrow’s mother to spend a week with them at their summer cottage, Holden says that he’s going on a trip with his grandmother to South America over the summer. This is ironic, he thinks, since his grandmother is the one person in his family who doesn’t go anywhere.
Chapter 9: Salinger’s ninth chapter is uneventful for the most part. It begins as Holden leaves the train station and decides to go to the phone booth to call someone. His only problem is he doesn’t know who to call. He has plenty of people in mind, but in the end he convinces himself that there are too many excuses not to call; for example, Phoebe, his sister, is already in bed. There are many phone calls that never get made in this book. This is not because Holden is shy and doesn’t have the nerve to call anyone; it’s because Holden’s mind is so scrambled with a blur of thoughts and emotions, he has trouble sorting them out and taking decisive action.
In the cab, Holden begins to think about where the ducks from the pond in Central Park go during the winter. He asks the cabdriver but doesn’t get a clear answer. Here, like the kings in the back row, a seemingly insignificant detail still bothers Holden immensely. The reader could even infer that the Central Park ducks mean more to Holden than matters of actual importance, like his future. It’s a stretch, but Salinger could be using the ducks as a metaphor for Holden’s desire to escape, to fly away from the cold winters of his own life.
Once in the hotel, Holden curiously peers through his windows and notices various people in other rooms doing very peculiar things. One man is cross-dressing while another couple nearby is spitting water in each others’ faces. This intrigues Holden but also disgusts him. He shrugs it off, saying the hotel was "full of perverts and morons." Soon Holden gets to thinking about his own social life, and admits, "I’m probably the biggest sex maniac you ever saw." To show this to the reader, Holden calls up a good-looking girl he only vaguely knows and asks her out for a date. She rejects him though, and he acknowledges that he really "fouled it up." Holden, at such a young age, doesn’t yet understand his own sexuality.
Chapter 10: The tenth chapter beings the same way the ninth chapter did: Holden feels like calling Phoebe. Here, Holden begins to talk a little more about Phoebe, his beloved sister. It’s obvious that Holden cares for Phoebe the most out of his family. This makes sense since Allie is dead, D.B. is a phony Hollywood prostitute, and his parents are both phonies. Holden describes Phoebe in his classic second-person dialogue, saying, "You never saw a little kid so pretty and smart in your whole life." Yet Holden is afraid to call Phoebe for fear that his parents may answer the phone and know that he is in New York, kicked out of Pencey Prep.
So, since he’s so bored with nothing to do anyway, Holden decides to go down to the Lavender Room, the hotel nightclub. After being seated, he asks the waiter for a beer, but he questions his age. Acting very annoyed, Holden orders a coca-cola instead. Nearby, he sees three older women sitting by themselves at a table. Holden soon goes over to the table and eventually dances with all three of them, though he seems to despise every minute of his time in their company. All three of the girls, who are tourists from Seattle, are obsessed with movie stars. This especially annoys Holden, since he thinks all movie stars are phonies anyway. When they tell him they have to go back to their room to get some sleep, Holden becomes very "depressed" because they say that in the morning they’re planning to visit Radio City Music Hall— a phony place he despises.