Free Study Guide for The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger|
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CHAPTER SUMMARY WITH NOTES
Although Holden is a totally vulnerable character, he does not like his vulnerabilities being exposed. This is evident in his wish that he was dressed when Maurice and Sunny barge in on him. As he threatens Maurice, he feels weak, and his voice is shaking, but he feels if he were wearing clothes, at least he could have maintained a certain amount of dignity. It is for the same reason that he would have "given anything" to not have started crying in front of them.
Holden reveals a lot about his philosophy of life in this chapter, especially when he claims to be an atheist. He says, "I like Jesus and all, but I donít care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible". What Holden really dislikes is the preaching of religious texts and their teachers. He believes that Jesus is generous and forgiving, and that he would have forgiven even Judas. In Holdenís mind, it is the disciples who are the true phonies as they pretended to be Christ-like but were never generous like their Master. Holden, therefore, says his problem is not with God, but with religion that is rooted in dogma and preached by "phonies".
When prayer does not come to comfort Holden, he consoles himself with delusions of murder and death. He imagines himself as a tough guy who, despite being shot in the abdomen, manages his revenge quite successfully. He pictures himself killing Maurice in the elevator. Then Holden imagines killing himself by jumping out the window to the street below, but he cannot bear the thought of lying dead on the streets with a crowd of people gathering to look at his body. If he could only be sure somebody would cover him up as soon as he landed, he might consider it. In the end, he accepts reality and acknowledges there is no escape from the pain and misery of his existence.
It is important to note that this chapter represents a mini-climax, another peak in the continuing rising action. It is the second fight that Holden experiences in the book. As in the first fight against Stradlater, Holden is defeated by Maurice, which makes him feel weaker and more miserable than ever. He even contemplates suicide, but is not strong enough to carry through with even that plan, making a weak excuse for himself. Holden continues his downward spiral, from which there seems to be no return. In fact, Holden acknowledges at the end of this chapter that there is no escape from the pain and misery of his existence.
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. 09 May 2017