The Catcher in the Rye

by: J. D. Salinger

Carl Luce

He said it didn’t matter if a guy was married or not. He said half the married guys in the world were flits and didn’t even know it. He said you could turn into one practically overnight, if you had all the traits and all. He used to scare the hell out of us. I kept waiting to turn into a flit or something. The funny thing about old Luce, I used to think he was sort of flitty himself.

This quote represents one of the few times in the novel when homosexuality comes up explicitly. It occurs in Chapter 19, during Holden’s meeting with Carl Luce. Holden suspects Luce of being homosexual, and although he seems outwardly dismissive of homosexual men (e.g., using the derogatory word “flit”), later in this chapter Holden also seems to have fun looking for potentially homosexual men and pointing them out to Carl.

“Hey, I got a flit for you,” I told him. “At the end of the bar. Don’t look now, I been saving him for ya.”
“Very funny,” he said. “Same old Caulfield. When are you going to grow up?”

Looking around the bar in Chapter 19, Holden notices men he thinks might be homosexual (i.e., “flits”) and points them out to Carl. Despite the possibility that Holden may actually and sincerely enjoy this game, Carl dismisses it as an example of Holden’s characteristic immaturity. Once again, Holden offers the reader evidence of how others see him as being relentlessly childish. However, in light of Holden’s own possible homosexuality and his strong desire for connection, Carl’s dismissal seems doubly disappointing.

“Supposing I went to your father and had him psychoanalyze me and all,” I said. “What would he do to me? I mean what would he do to me?”
“He wouldn’t do a goddam thing to you. He’d simply talk to you, and you’d talk to him, for God’s sake. For one thing, he’d help you to recognize the patterns of your mind.”

Near the end of their time together in Chapter 19, Carl introduces Holden to the possibility of seeking out someone like his father, who is a psychologist. Such an individual could act as a neutral third party who would be able to help Holden sort out “the patterns of [his] mind.” Carl’s suggestion is significant in two ways. First, it indicates that Holden needn’t navigate his troubles alone. Second, it represents a rare moment when an older male offers real advice, rather than just telling Holden to shape up and play by the rules.