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The Catcher in the Rye

Quotes

Pencey Prep

Quotes Pencey Prep

Chapter 1

Pencey Prep is this school that's in Agerstown, Pennsylvania. You probably heard of it. You've probably seen the ads, anyway. They advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hot-shot guy on a horse jumping over a fence. Like as if all you ever did at Pencey was play polo all the time. I never even once saw a horse anywhere near the place. 

In Chapter 1, Holden describes the boarding school he attends, Pencey Prep, as a pretentious place that cultivates a false image of sophistication and propriety. Holden scoffs at the school’s advertisements in magazines, which depict “hot-shots” playing polo, claiming that the school does not even have horses, let alone a polo team. For Holden, the ad embodies the fundamental hypocrisy of Pencey Prep. The expensive school claims be a place that shapes boys into young men of character, but Holden cynically dismisses it as a place full of crooks and phonies.  

The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pencey. It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn't win. I remember around three o'clock that afternoon I was standing way the hell up on top of Thomsen Hill, right next to this crazy cannon that was in the Revolutionary War and all. You could see the whole field from there, and you could see the two teams bashing each other all over the place. 

As Holden stands alone on a hill watching the school’s biggest football game of the year from afar, he ridicules his classmates’ fanatical devotion to “Old Pencey” and its traditions. For Holden, the game is a senseless spectacle of “two teams bashing each other all over the place.” He derides other Pencey students who place so much importance on the outcome. Holden’s vantage point from the hilltop in one sense represents how he considers himself superior to the rest of the Pencey community; but his physical separation also shows his alienation and inability to connect with others at the school.  

Chapter 3

The only good part of his speech was right in the middle of it. He was telling us all about what a swell guy he was, what a hot-shot and all, then all of a sudden this guy sitting in the row in front of me, Edgar Marsalla, laid this terrific fart. It was a very crude thing to do, in chapel and all, but it was also quite amusing. Old Marsalla. He damn near blew the roof off. Hardly anybody laughed out loud, and old Ossenburger made out like he didn't even hear it, but old Thurmer, the headmaster, was sitting right next to him on the rostrum and all, and you could tell he heard it. Boy, was he sore. He didn't say anything then, but the next night he made us have compulsory study hall in the academic building and he came up and made a speech. He said that the boy that had created the disturbance in chapel wasn't fit to go to Pencey. 

Holden’s account of Edgar Marsalla’s expulsion shows how Pencey maintains its pristine image in spite of all the “crooks” and “phonies” at the school. When Edgar farts in chapel during the speech of a Pencey donor, everyone pretends to ignore it at first, but later he is quietly expelled and declared unfit to be a student at Pencey. Although it is not clear whether Edgar’s flatulence was intentional, the episode illustrates what happens to nonconformists like Edgar—and, of course, Holden—at Pencey.