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Blogging The Catcher in the Rye: Part 4 (In Which Crumby Stuff Gets Crumbier)

Last timewe learned that Holden had a younger brother, Allie, who died of leukemia and we cried. Also, Holden got his nose punched in by Stradlater because he couldn’t bear the thought of Strad “giving the time” to Old Jane Gallagher—and, as a result of this, Holden decides to leave Pencey that night, instead of waiting for Wednesday, the day when vacation began. 

After presumably waking up the whole dorm with his goodbye—Sleep tight, ya morons!—Holden walks to the train station in the snow, carrying his two suitcases, his nose still bloody. He doesn’t give us the time (hah!), but I’m estimating it’s around 1 AM and somehow the trains are still running, because one arrives within ten minutes. Seems a little too felicitous to me, like, if this weren’t a novel, perhaps Holden would freeze his butt off at the station for forty minutes, then head back to his dorm, go to sleep, and hug, kiss, and make up with Strad in the morning. But, since this is a novel, the train not only arrives, BUT ALSO, a few stops later, a “very good-looking” woman gets on the nearly-empty train and sits down right next to Holden. And, since this is a novel, it turns out this woman has a son in Holden’s class at Pencey.

Her son, one Ernest Morrow, is, according to Holden, our *highly objective* and *highly* trustworthy source, “doubtless the biggest bastard that ever went to Pencey” and “about as sensitive as a goddam toilet seat.” Of course, Holden doesn’t share these opinions with Ernest’s very attractive mother. But neither does he sort of nod and smile and stay silent, as you or I might, nor does he make a polite fib like, “Oh, I don’t know Ernest that well, but he seems swell.” Nope. Instead, he proceeds to introduce himself as Rudolf Schmidt and tell Ernest’s mother about how “Old Ernie” is one of the most popular, original, modest, and humble boys at Pencey. Oh, and that he—Rudolf—is headed home early for winter vacation because he has “this tiny little tumor on the brain.” It’s tiny and little, so, you know, nbd.

Okay. Get to Penn Station. Get in a taxi. On the way, ask the driver where the ducks by the little lake in Central Park go when it freezes over. Because SYMBOLISM. Ask driver to stop for a cocktail with you. Because LONELY. Check into hotel. Get to room. Look out your windows, which face other hotel room windows (because ALIENATION) and see 1) a man alone in his room putting on women’s clothing and 2) a scantily-clad man and a woman spitting water in each other’s faces.

Seeing this couple compels Holden/Rudolf to reflect on love, intimacy, and crumbiness:

I think if you don’t really like a girl, you shouldn’t horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you’re supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it. It’s really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes.

Truly an Oprah moment.

Afterward, since he’s “feeling pretty horny,” Holden digs through his wallet for the telephone number of “this girl that wasn’t exactly a whore or anything but that,” he’d been told, “didn’t mind doing it once in a while.” The woman’s “name” is Faith Cavendish and she is not happy to be woken up at what must be, by now, about 2 AM. She warms up to Holden, however, when he tells her he goes to Princeton, but she still refuses to meet for a cocktail. It’s too late, even for her. When she asks him is name, Holden says, “Holden Caulfield,”—not Rudolf Schmidt or some other fake name—but she mishears and calls him “Mr. Cawffle.” Because OMG THIS BOOK IS SAD AND NO ONE CAN CONNECT.

Holden goes downstairs to the hotel club, where a “putrid” band is playing, and is seated near a table of three women, who all look about 30. And this is when the novel’s low-grade misogyny really starts to kick in. In the span of six pages, Holden—who starts talking to the women, introducing himself as Jim Steele—refers to them as witches, morons (3x), stupid (3x), dopey (3x), ignorant (2x), and ugly (5x). Oof! It’d make me angry if it didn’t just seem to be another way to show us how childish Holden still is. I think he thinks this kind of judgmental mindset is more adult and so he tries to adopt it. But the moments of kindness—with Ackley and others—show us this meanness doesn’t come naturally. It’s a pose. Being a teenager sucks, you guys.

Catcher Index: 

Best Potential Band Name: real tigress

Second Best Potential Band Name: that was a panic

Diction that reminds you Holden’s still a kid: when he tells the cabdriver he’s “traveling incognito”

Inadvertent oxymoron: What a lady, boy.

Contraction that also looks like it could be a lesser-known Spanish dish: toleja

Max # of times “crumby” appears on one page: 8

Moment that pissed off my inner feminist: when Holden calls the three women from Seattle “witches”

What we should all do to do people who call women “witches”: give them the freeze

Sentence I could see needlepointed onto a pillow sold at Urban Outfitters: Mothers are all slightly insane.

Business card title: not exactly a whore or anything but don’t mind doing it once in a while

What we should all start calling “alcohol” from now on: intoxicating liquor

Personification that makes me want to cry: sad, fancy hats

If you’re following along at home, this post covers chapters 8, 9, and 10.