Carl used to be the resident assistant for Holden’s dormitory at his previous school, and he’s currently a student at Columbia University. Carl hasn’t yet reached full adulthood, and this may be part of why Holden wishes to connect with him. That is to say, Carl may be able to offer Holden different advice from that given by older adults like Mr. Spencer. When they meet, however, Carl has little patience for Holden’s immature antics. And though he offers Holden sincere advice about seeking psychiatric help, this advice falls on deaf (and increasingly drunk) ears.

Perhaps another reason Holden reaches out to Carl is that he suspects Carl might be gay. Holden broaches this subject when he tells Carl, “Hey, I got a flit for you. . . . At the end of the bar.” Although Carl brushes the comment off as an example of Holden’s immaturity, it also seems possible that Holden, in his increasing inebriation, may actually be flirting with Carl. In this case, Carl’s presence in the book, like Stradlater’s, serves to illuminate Holden’s fascination with sexuality and also his uncomfortableness with it.