The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
When Holden wakes up the next morning (after only a few hours of sleep), he thinks once again about calling Jane, but decides that he isn’t in the “mood.” Instead, he calls Sally Hayes, who he thinks is the kind of person who seems intelligent and sophisticated but is actually somewhat vapid and unintelligent. Still, he makes plans to go to a play with her that afternoon in the city. During their short conversation, he can’t help but cringe at the way she speaks, hating the “phony” words she chooses. Still, he commits to meeting her. When he hangs up the phone, he looks out the window and sees that the “perverts” across the way have shut their blinds, suddenly acting quite prudish. 
Holden can never bring himself to actually call Jane. This is because he has romanticized her as a person, meaning that any future interactions he has with her will threaten to ruin the idealized version of her he’s built in his mind. Sally Hayes, on the other hand, is someone Holden has already decided is imperfect, so he has no trouble calling her. The only problem, of course, is that he immediately resents her for being a “phony.” In turn, he once again cycles through his pattern of yearning for human company just to eventually criticize whomever he comes into contact with.
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Holden checks out of the hotel and goes to Grand Central Station to store his bags in a locker. He then goes to a small sandwich shop for breakfast. While eating, he meets two nuns carrying cheap suitcases that remind him of one of his former roommates, who had very inexpensive luggage. This memory makes him sad, because he remembers that his roommate used to hide his bags because he didn’t want anyone to compare them to Holden’s. Wanting to help, Holden decided to hide his own bags, but then his roommate took out Holden’s suitcases and put them on display, clearly hoping that everyone would think that Holden’s bags were actually his.
The story Holden recalls about his roommate’s suitcases illustrates how inauthentic and petty people can be. It also demonstrates that Holden is capable of compassion and kindness, since he tried to make his roommate feel better about not owning expensive luggage. As soon as he did this, though, his roommate took advantage of his thoughtfulness, once again proving to Holden that people are often “phony” and dishonest.
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Holden starts talking to the nuns in the sandwich shop and learns that they’ve come to New York City to teach high school. One of them, he discovers, is an English teacher, so he tells her that English is his best subject. This incites a long conversation about literature, in which they discuss Romeo and Juliet. As they talk about the play, though, Holden wonders if the nun is comfortable with its sexual content, noting that she’s surprisingly pretty and casual for someone in her position. Though low on funds, he decides to give the nuns $10, insisting that they take it even though they initially refuse. Then, when they leave, he tries to pay for their lunch, but they assure him that he’s already done enough. Still, he wishes he gave them more money.
The excessive kindness Holden shows these nuns is in keeping with his affinity for anything that represents innocence and purity. Although he likes to think of himself as a “sex maniac,” he has already made it quite clear that the prospect of actually having sex frightens him. As a result, he exists in a strange middle ground between sexual innocence and sexual intrigue, idealizing both but never bringing himself to fully commit to either side. In this sense, he thinks constantly about sex—even while talking to a nun about Shakespeare—but never actually tries to engage in sexual intercourse. Similarly, he aligns himself with the Catholic Church by giving the nuns more than he can afford to give, but he never actually commits himself to religion. Simply put, he idealizes these nuns as symbols of the kind of innocence and incorruptibility that he yearns to see in his own everyday life.
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon