The Catcher in the Rye


J. D. Salinger

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The Catcher in the Rye: Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

In the hotel lobby, Holden thinks again about Jane Gallagher and Stradlater, hoping that nothing happened between them on their date. He then remembers the summer he spent with Jane in Maine. Their families rented neighboring houses, and Holden and Jane spent virtually all of their time together. They usually just played checkers, but they would sometimes go to the movies and hold hands with each other. This, Holden says, is as close as they usually came to physical intimacy, though he recounts one time when they went beyond simply holding hands. They were playing checkers, and Jane’s alcoholic stepfather entered and asked where his cigarettes were. Jane didn’t respond, but when her stepfather left, a single tear fell onto the checkboard. Seeing this, Holden got up and sat next to her, taking her in his arms and kissing her face—everywhere, that is, except her lips.
Even the most romantic and physical memory Holden has of Jane is quite innocent. Although it’s true that he kissed her all over her face, it’s clear that their relationship was fairly platonic, and his affection in this moment was mostly aimed at making her feel better. As a result, his thoughts about Jane remain void of any true sexual chemistry, though the fact that they used to hold hands enables him to think of their bond as containing the promise of something more serious—something more adult. Because they never actually acted out any romantic feelings, Holden obsesses over someday advancing their relationship. This is why he’s always so hesitant to contact her, knowing that she might reject his advance and thus shatter his fantasy of one day becoming a serious couple.  
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Holden remembers how happy he used to be when he held Jane’s hand and says that she’s the only person he ever showed Allie’s baseball mitt. As he thinks these thoughts, he sits in the lobby in a chair that has a disgusting stain on it, and he suddenly feels depressed. Wanting to get away from the hotel, he decides to go to a piano bar called Ernie’s that D.B. once took him to. Accordingly, he hails a taxi and thinks about Ernie, the bar’s piano player. Although he likes listening to him play, Holden can’t help but feel that Ernie is too good at piano. After having this thought, Holden admits that he’s not entirely sure what he means—all he knows is that he enjoys listening to Ernie play but dislikes the fact that Ernie plays like somebody who knows he’s an excellent musician.
Holden’s memories of Jane provide a stark contrast to his current circumstances. As he thinks about the happy times he spent with her in Maine, he sits in a rundown hotel lobby. Unfortunately, this only proves to him that he’s right to fear the process of growing up, since his life has apparently gone downhill even in past two years. To take his mind off this, he decides to go to Ernie’s, once more attempting to outrun his emotions through spontaneity. On another note, the thoughts he has about Ernie once again highlight his rather absurd ideas about “phoniness.” Of course, he’s right to think that many people put on a certain front that doesn’t align with their true personas, but in this case it’s ridiculous to criticize a performer for doing this, since this is simply part of the job. That Holden gets so annoyed even by a showman’s “phoniness” only emphasizes just how intolerant he is of anything he thinks is inauthentic.
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