ON vacation from Pencey Preparatory School for Boys ("An Instructor for
Every Ten Students"), Holden Morrisey Caulfield
usually wore his
A long overcoat, popular in the 19th
and 20th century. and a hat with a cutting edge at the "V" in the crown.
While riding in Fifth Avenue buses, girls who knew Holden
often thought they saw him walking past Saks' or
Altman's or Lord and Taylor's, but it was
usually somebody else.
This year, Holden's Christmas vacation from Pencey Prep broke at the same time as
Sally Hayes' from the Mary A. Woodruff School for
Girls ("Special Attention to Those Interested in Dramatics"). On
vacation from Mary A. Woodruff, Sally usually went hatless and wore her new
silver-blue muskrat coat. While riding in
Fifth Avenue buses, boys who knew Sally often thought they saw her walking past
Saks' or Altman's or Lord and Taylor's. It was usually somebody else.
As soon as Holden got into New York, he took a cab home,
A small, leather suitcase, often made of stiff
material. Unlike most suitcases, it is deeper than it is long. in the
foyer, kissed his mother, lumped his hat and coat into a convenient chair, and
dialed Sally's number.
"Hey!" he said into the
The most common type of phone in
the 1940s was the rotary phone, which had its ear and mouth pieces connected,
which was then tethered to the rest of the telephone via a wire..
"Yes. Who's that?"
"Holden Caulfield. How are ya?"
"Holden! I'm fine! How are you?"
"Swell," said Holden. "Listen.
[How are ya, anyway? I mean how's
Within around five or ten seconds of dialogue, Holden is
already repeating himself in extremely apparent ways. While this may seem like
an oversight on Salinger's part, it is most certainly not. It could be construed
as Holden having a simple vocabulary, or generally just being uninterested in
whatever Sally's answer was. However, I believe the repetition of "How are ya',"
and all other phrases that Holden repeats frequently can indicate his tepidness.
I would infer that Holden's brain is actually moving extremely quickly, and his
constant repetitions are a physical sign that the thoughts in his mind are
overtaking his ability to hold a proper conversation. We can relate to Holden in
this way, as he seems to struggle with expressing his thoughts and feelings
through his words and actions. This sentiment is studied more throughout the
entirety of the novel.
"Fine," said Sally. "I mean-you know."
"Swell," said Holden. "Well,
Holden is obsessed with getting
people to "listen" to him, though in the novel and his story that rarely
happens. In the longer of the two works, the only time when Holden is truly
listened to is by an adult friend of his, who later makes sexual advances on
him. Holden's anxiety and fears of the adult world are very real, and the only
person who truly listens has alterior motives. Plus, to say that the man 'truly'
listens may be an overstatement, as he could just be agreeing with Holden to
further his own wishes. What are you doing tonight?"
Holden took her to the Wedgwood Room that night, and they both
dressed, Sally wearing her new turquoise job. They danced a lot. Holden's style was
long, slow side steps back and forth, as though he were
[dancing over an open
Holden's style of dancing can tell us a lot about his
personality. It seems very clear that Salinger intended this line to tell us
more about Holden than just his dancing abilities, or lack thereof. He uses this
statement to tell us that Holden is actually very careful of what he views as
impending dangers. In this case, the danger could be a fear of whether Sally
truly enjoys his company or not.. They danced cheek to cheek, and when
their faces got sticky from contact, [neither of them minded]
important to note that unlike the novel, this short story is in omniscient third
person, meaning that the narrator has full knowledge of how Sally feels, and
Holden does not. Unlike the book, we cannot assume that Holden understands
everything that the narrator says. This creates a large difference between the
two stories, as the novel is somewhat defined by Holden's unique narration
style.. It was a long time between vacations.
They made a wonderful thing out of the taxi ride home. Twice, when the cab stopped
short in traffic, Holden fell off the seat.
"I love you," he swore to Sally, removing his mouth from hers.
"Oh, darling, I love you, too," Sally said, and added,
While it's not said exactly how Holden feels, by saying
that Sally is less passionate than he is, it sets up that Holden thinks more of
Sally than she does of him. This can extend past their love lives, as it seems
like Holden over-thinks a lot of things when compared to his peers.,
"Promise me you'll let your hair grow out. Crew cuts are corny."
The next day was a Thursday and Holden took Sally to the matinee of "O Mistress
Mine," which neither of them had seen. During the first intermission, they smoked in
the lobby and vehemently agreed with each other that the Lunts were
marvelous. George Harrison, of Andover, also
was smoking in the lobby and he recognized Sally, as she hoped he would. They had
been introduced once at a party and had never seen each other since. Now, in the
loby at the Empire, they greeted each other with the gusto of two who might have
taken baths together as small children. Sally asked George if he didn't think the
show was marvellous
marvelous. George gave himself some
room for his reply, bearing down on the foot of the woman behind him. He said that
the play itself certainly was no masterpiece, but that the Lunts, of course, were
"Angels," Holden thought. "Angels. For Chrissake. Angels."
After the matinee, Sally told Holden that she had a
marvelous idea. "Let's go ice skating at
Radio City tonight."
"All right," Holden said. "Sure."
"Do you mean it?" Sally said. "Don't just say it unless you mean it. I mean I
don't give a darn, one way or the other."
"No," said Holden. Let's go. It might be fun."
Sally and Holden were both terrible ice skaters. Sally's ankles had a painful,
unbecoming way of collapsing toward each other and Holden's weren't much better.
That night there were at least a hundred people who had nothing better to do than
watch the skaters.
"Let's get a table and have a drink," Holden suggested suddenly.
"That's the most marvellous
marvelous idea I've heard all
day," Sally said.
They removed their skates and sat down at a table in the warm inside lounge. Sally
took off her red woollen mittens. Holden began to light matches. He let them burn
down till he couldn't hold them, then he dropped what was left into an ashtray.
"Look," Sally said, "I have to know-are you or aren't you going to help me trim the
tree Christmas Eve?"
"Sure," said Holden, without enthusiasm.
"I mean I have to know," Sally said.
Holden suddenly stopped lighting matches. He leaned forward over the table. "Sally,
did you ever get fed up? I mean did you ever get scared that everything was gonna go
lousy unless you did something?"
"Sure," Sally said.
"Do you like school?" Holden inquired.
"It's a terrific bore."
"Do you hate it, I mean?"
"Well, I don't hate it."
"Well, I hate it," said Holden. "Boy, do I hate it! But it isn't just that.
It's everything. I hate living in New York. I hate Fifth Avenue buses and Madison
Avenue buses and getting out at the center doors. I hate the Seventy-second Street
movie, with those fake clouds on the ceiling, and being introduced to guys like
George Harrison, and going down in elevators when you wanna go out, and guys fitting
your pants all the time at Brooks." His voice got more excited. "Stuff like that.
Know what I mean? You know something? You're the only reason I came home this
["You're sweet," said Sally, wishing he'd change the subject.]
this point in their dialogue, it would seem as if Sally is listening. Despite
this, the third-person omniscient narrator tells us that she wishes he would
stop speaking like this. While Holden doesn't know it for sure, his suspicions
and worries are true: Sally doesn't really care about the things that are
troubling him. As you can imagine, the thought that people are feigning interest
most likely plagues Holden's mind, allowing it to sink deeper into his
"Boy, I hate school! You oughta go to a boys' school sometime. All you do is study,
and make believe you give a damn if the football team wins, and talk about
[girls and clothes and liquor]
Note here that Holden tells us that
his actions quite frequently lie aout what he truly feels inside. We can trust
this statement because it is contained within a mental breakdown, when he
doesn't have the capability to lie to Sally, or the reader. When I say that he
lies, I mean that what he says about disliking talking about "girls and clothes
and liqour" is the truth. Despite this, throughout the novel and this story, he
is seen acting in complete opposite to these values. He fools around with Sally
in the taxi, and in the novel refers to himself as a "pretty sexual guy". While
the narrator in the short story is not Holden, they bear a striking resemblence
in terms of world views and their voice. They both take great care in commenting
on people's style, like Holden's chesterfield coat or red hunting cap, because
he believes that people care about that, and will enjoy reading about them.
Lastly, throughout the novel he pretends to be enamoured by liquor and other
things indicative of maturity, like smoking cigarettes. In this scene for
example, Holden fidgets with cigarettes, lighting them over and over, but never
actually smoking. We can view these quasi-lies as Holden attempting to dip his
foot into the pool that he sees as 'the adult world'. In this conversation, he
admits to Sally that he doesn't like the temperature of the water, so to
"Now, listen," Sally interrupted. "Lot's of boys get more out of school than
["I agree," said Holden]
Holden takes great care to make sure Sally
doesn't think he disagrees with her, in what seems like a desperate attempt to
hold on to her attention.. "But that's all I get out of it. See?
That's what I mean. I don't get anything out of anything. I'm in bad shape. I'm in
lousy shape. [Look, Sally.]
Another quick attempt to get Sally to
listen to him. How would you like to just beat it? Here's my idea. I'll
borrow Fred Halsey's car and tomorrow morning we'll drive up to [Massachusetts
and Vermont and around there]
We can interpret his indecisiveness and
list of multiple places as him grasping at loose straws in his head. It seems to
me like he doesn't have a solid plan, which could emphasize his crowded,
confused head., see? It's beautiful. I mean it's wonderful up there,
[honest to God]
Note here that Holden feels the need to swear to
God that he's telling Sally the truth, as if just the fact that he's being
honest will convicne her.. We'll stay in these cabin camps and stuff like
that until my money runs out. I have a hundred and twelve dollars with me. Then,
when the money runs out, I'll get a job and we'll live somewhere a brook and stuff.
Know what I mean? Honest to God, Sally, we'll have a swell time. Then, later on,
we'll get married or something. [Wuddaya say? C'mon! Wuddaya say? C'mon! Let's
do it, huh?]
More desperate repitition."
"You can't just do something like that," Sally said.
"Why not?" Holden asked
By describing Holden's voice as
shrill, Salinger gives off the impression the Holden's vocie seems almost
childish to an outside perspective. Personally, when I think of something
shrill, I think of either an alarm bell, or a small child screaming in a
department store.. "Why the hell not?"
"Because you can't," Sally said. "You just can't, that's all. Supposing your money
ran out and you didn't get a job-then what?"
[I'd get a job]
Holden is so desperate for mental salvation that he
completely denounces the idea that his plan is unrealsitc, or has huge
flaws.. Don't worry about that. You don't have to worry about that part
of it. What's the matter? Don't you wanna go with me?"
"It isn't that," Sally said. "It's not that at all. Holden, we'll have lots of time
to do those things-all those things. After you go to college and we get
married and all. There'll be oodles or marvellous
places to go."
"No, there wouldn't be," Holden said. "It'd be entirely different."
Sally looked at him, he had contradicted her so quietly.
["It wouldn't be the same at all. We'd have to go downstairs in elevators with
suitcases and stuff. We'd have to call up everyone and tell 'em goodbye and send
'em postcards. And I'd have to work at my father's and ride in Madison Avenue
buses and read newspapers. We'd have to go to the Seventy-second Street all the
time and see newsreels. Newsreels! There's always a dumb horse race and some
dame breaking a bottle over a ship. You don't see what I mean at
This small monologue from Holden is truly heartbreaking. This
is the heart of the short story, and sums up Holden's troubles in the novel as
well. What Holden truly fears is becoming an adult. He believes that after you
cross the threshold into maturity, you lose all sense of individuality. Holden
feels as if he will be forced to accept the world he was born into, full of ties
and suitcases and newspapers. He doesn't want to do all the things that he sees
adults do, as he fears that they are being forced to do them. To Holden, the
industrialized, professional world seems unsightly. I'm sure you would be
hard-pressed to find that you were never scared of adulthood as a child, or even
now. This fear, combined with Holden's general anxiety and depression, take over
his brain. They send him in circles, around a merry-go-round which seemingly
never ends, as he grasps for people's attention. This metaphor is explorered
further in the novel with Pheobe Caulfield. Pheobe, Holden's sister, rides a
merry-go-round at the end of the novel as Holden watches her. He sees her
grasping for this ring, and comments that he wishes he could ask her to be
careful. Instead, he says that "The thing with kids is, if they want to grab the
gold ring, you have to let them do it, and not say anything. If they fall off,
the fall off, but it's bad if you say anything to them." This can be seen as
Holden accepting that kids need to grow up of their own volition, yet he can't
seem to fall off the nerry-go-round entirely. But he does see it stop spinning,
which I personally see as him gaining the hope that his own thought circles may
"Maybe I don't. Maybe you don't either," Sally said.
Holden stood up, with his skates swung over one shoulder. "You give me a royal pain,"
he announced quite dispassionately.
A LITTLE after midnight, Holden and a fat, unattractive boy named Carl
Luce sat at the Wadsworth Bar, drinking Scotch-and-sodas and eating
potato chips. Carl was at Pencey Prep, too, and led his class.
"Hey, Carl," Holden said, "you're one of these
Holden complements Carl by calling him intellectualy, yet asks a
question which has much more to do with wisdom than intellect. Once again,
Holden is looking for any way possible to get people to listen to him..
Tell me something. Supposing you were fed up. Supposing you were going stark,
starking mad. Supposing you wanted to quit school and everything and get the hell
out of New York. What would you do?"
"Drink up," Carl said. "The hell with that."
"No, I'm serious," Holden
Unlike the cryptic code that Holden
usually hides his true thoughts in, the narrator tells us he is pleading,
implying that he has started to falter in hiding his thoughts from his
["You've always got a bug," Carl said, and got up and left.]
quite blunt here, and the next paragraph opening with Holden drinking a lot is
jarring, and can show us how hard Carl's denial to listen really affected
Holden went on drinking. He drank up nine dollars' worth Scotch-and-sodas and at 2
A.M made his way from the bar into the little anteroom, where there was a telephone.
dialed three numbers before he got the proper
"Hullo!" Holden shouted into the phone.
"Who is this?" inquired a cold voice.
"This is me, Holden Caulfield. Can I speak to Sally, please?"
"Sally's asleep. This is Mrs. Hayes. Why are you calling up at this hour,
"Wanna talk Sally, Mis' Hayes. Very 'portant. Put her on."
"Sally's asleep, Holden. Call tomorrow. Good night."
"Wake 'er up. Wake 'er up, huh? Wake 'er up, Mis' Hayes."
"Holden," Sally said, from the other end of the wire. "This is me. What's the
"Sally? Sally, that you?"
"Yes. You're drunk."
["Sally, I'll come over Christmas Eve. Trim the tree for ya. Huh? Wuddaya say?
Holden bargains with her. We can infer that Holden calls her to
say he'll trim the tree because he believes that it will be another oppotrunity
for her to listen to him.
"Yes. Go to bed now. Where are you? Who's with you?"
"I'll trim the tree for ya. Huh? Wuddaya say? Huh?"
"Yes. Go to bed now. Where are you? Who's with you?"
"I'll trim the tree for ya. Huh? O.K.?"
"Yes! Good night!"
"G'night. G'night, Sally baby. Sally sweetheart, darling."
Holden hung up and stood by the phone for nearly fifteen minutes. Then he put another
nickel in the slot and dialled the same number again.
"Hullo!" he yelled into the mouthpiece. "Speak to Sally, please."
There was a sharp click as the phone was hung up, and Holden hung up, too. He stood
swaying for a moment. Then he made his way into the men's room and filled one of the
washbowls with cold water. He immersed his head to the ears, after which he walked,
dripping, to the radiator and sat down on it. He sat there counting the squares in
the tile floor while the water dripped down his face and the back of his neck,
soaking his shirt collar and necktie. Twenty minutes later the barroom piano player
came in to comb his wavy hair.
"Hiya, boy!" Holden greeted him from the radiator. "I'm on the hot seat. They pulled
the switch on me. I'm getting fried."
The piano player smiled.
"Boy, you can play!" Holden said. "You really can play that piano. You oughta go on
the radio. You know that? You're damn good, boy."
"You wanna towel, fella?" asked the piano player.
"Not me," said Holden.
"Why don't you go home, kid?"
Holden shook his head. "Not me," he said. "Not me."
The piano player shrugged and replaced the lady's comb in his inside pocket. When he
left the room,
[Holden stood up from the radiator and blinked several times to
let the tears out of his eyes]
It is never stated that Holden started
crying, so it seems quite sudden. However, in further analysis of the rest of
the story, it seems clear why he's crying. Not even the piano player will listen
to him.. Then he went to the checkroom. He put on his chesterfield
without buttoning it and jammed his hat on the back of his soaking-wet head.
His teeth chattering violently,
[Holden stood on the corner and waited for a
Madison Avenue bus. It was a long wait.]
In the end, Holden has to
wait for and ride on a Madison Avenue bus. I believe that Salinger ended the
story with this statement rather than Holden crying for a very specific reason.
Salinger was very aware of innocence, the loss of it, and many young men's wish
to retain it. However, after his experience as a soldier, he seemed to believe
that innocence is a priviledge which the world will never allow you to have.
Just as J.D Saligner's time in the war ripped his innocence from him, Holden's
innocence is similarly riped from him, and he is forced to take the buses he
hates so much, and try meekly to be okay with that.