Holden, who is self-conscious of himself, afraid of those around him, and who does not understand the life around him, isolates himself on the pretense that he believes he is above everyone else around him, is better than them, and has no need to interact with them. The reader, upon gaining a better understanding of Holden, can see that this is not the case. Holden isolates himself not because he believes he is better, but because being around other people and interacting with them confuses and overwhelms him. Thus, his cynicism and superiority in his isolation are Holden’s form of protecting himself.
The Catcher in the Rye Notes
The Catcher in the Rye, a novel about a teenager named Holden Caulfield, takes place somewhere in the eastern United States during the 1950s. At the beginning of chapter 1, Holden has received his final grades in his classes at the boarding school he attends, Pencey Preparatory. His grades are terrible and are the basis of his expulsion from the school. It is almost Christmas time, and Holden has a few days to spare before he is supposed to be back at his parents’ home in Manhattan. He goes to visit his old history teacher, Spencer, whose reprimanding and subsequent lecture irritate Holden. Holden returns to his dorm, where he finds his neighbor, Ackley, and his roommate, Stradlater, who also get on Holden’s nerves. Stradlater irritates Holden because he is dating a girl that Holden used to see and still has feelings for. A brief fist-fight with Stradlater causes Holden to leave Pencey Prep three days early for Manhattan. On the bus into New York Holden meets the mother of one of his schoolmates, and although Holden dislikes the boy, he says many good things about him to the boy’s mother.
When he gets to the city, Holden takes a cab to the Edmont Hotel. During the cab ride on the way to the hotel, he pesters the driver with questions about where the ducks in Central Park go during the winter. At the hotel, he can see other guests through their lighted windows and is disgusted by their sexuality. Bored and lonely, he calls up a woman he has never met, to see if he can convince her to have sex with him. Because she insists on meeting him the next day and Holden doesn’t want to wait that long, he hangs up on her. He then goes down to the Lavender Room, where the waiter won’t serve him because he is a minor. Holden sits at the table and flirts with three older women, who eventually abandon him to pay their tab. Holden leaves the hotel and goes to a jazz club, where he sits alone at a table and leaves after running into one of his deceased brother’s ex-girlfriends. He goes back to the hotel, where he accepts the receptionist’s offer to send up a prostitute. When the girl comes, Holden refuses to have sex with her, only wanting someone to talk to. He pays her anyway, but she leaves angry and returns with the receptionist to demand more money from Holden.
In the morning, he telephones one of his old girlfriends, Sally Hayes. She agrees to meet him and he takes her to a play. Afterwards, they go ice skating, and when she refuses to run away with him, he becomes angry and raises his voice at her. Sally becomes offended and leaves. Lonely, Holden calls up his old student advisor at Pencey, Luce, who meets him at a bar. Luce quickly grows irritated and offended by Holden’s immature remarks and makes an excuse to leave. Holden, now drunk, calls Sally again and talks about their Christmas Eve plans. He goes on a walk in Central Park to see the ducks, and he is freezing cold. He goes to his parents’ apartment, where he finds his little sister Phoebe. They...