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Free Study Guide for The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES


CHAPTER 7


Summary


Holden retreats to Ackley’s room and asks if he can spend the night with him. Ackley refuses and tells Holden to leave, making it clear he thinks Holden is crazy. Holden persists, wanting to talk; this time Ackley ignores him, so Holden finally leaves. Feeling isolate and alone, he makes up his mind he will leave Pencey Prep immediately and go to New York, without telling anyone.


Notes


This chapter further reveals Holden’s loneliness and depression. Holden is so desperate for connection that he pesters Ackley. He says, "I felt so lonesome all of a sudden I almost wished I was dead." When Ackley ignores Holden, he becomes even more desperate, more aware of his own pathetic loneliness. "It was even depressing out in the street. You couldn’t even hear cars anymore. I got feeling so lonesome and rotten." When Ackley still does not respond, Holden leaves, with an angry and sarcastic remark.

Feeling really alone, Holden decides he will leave Pencey and go to New York City. Since no one here has given him the attention he needs or cares about his departure, he shouts out childishly, loud enough to wake everyone in the dorm, "Sleep tight, ya morons." It is a weak gesture that merely shows how desperately Holden wants some interaction. In the end, however, it is his sadness and not his anger that leaves a lasting impression. He admits, "I was sort of crying, I don’t know why."



CHAPTER 8


Summary


Since it is too late to call for a taxi, Holden walks to the train station. On the way, he washes the blood from his nose with snow. The train comes soon and is practically empty, although tonight Holden would actually prefer for it to be full. At Trenton station, a lady boards the train and strikes up a conversation with Holden, recognizing his school’s insignia on one of his suitcases. It turns out that she is the mother of one of Holden’s classmates, a boy named Ernest Morrow. Holden tells her several lies about her son; they are good lies, the kind a mother wants to hear. He also tells her his name is Rudolf Schmidt, though that is the name of the janitor at the school. He ends the conversation by telling her he is on his way to have a tumor removed from his brain.


Notes


As usual, Holden’s narrative provides his opinions and thoughts. He tells the reader he likes to travel at night when the train is empty. However, given his mental state on this particular night, he finds that the empty train only reinforces his loneliness. He is relieved and happy when Mrs. Morrow boards, so he has someone to talk to. When he finds that she has a son at Pencey, he creates a multitude of lies about Ernest to make her feel good. When he calls himself Rudolf Schmidt, it is a textbook attempt to run away from his identity. It is significant that he chooses the name of the lowly janitor; he is so depressed he cannot imagine himself to be anyone better. In fact, he assumes a second identity, even worse than the first, for he tells Mrs. Morrow he is going in to the city to have a brain tumor removed. For the time being, it would seem that an artificial life with a brain tumor is preferable to his own.

 

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