The Catcher in the Rye

by

J. D. Salinger

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Mr. Spencer Character Analysis

Mr. Spencer is Holden’s elderly history teacher a Pencey Prep. When he hears that Holden has flunked out of school, Spencer invites him to his house and tries to motivate him to “play by the rules”—a piece of advice that Dr. Thurmer, the headmaster, has already imparted to Holden. During this visit, Holden is horrified by Mr. Spencer’s physical state, since Spencer is sick when he arrives. Because of this, Holden has to sit on the Dr. Thurmer’s bed and look at him while the old man pontificates in his bathrobe. This unsettles Holden because he hates the idea of growing up, associating aging with negative kinds of change. Worse, Mr. Spencer makes Holden feel ashamed for failing history, though only because he feels bad that Spencer—whom he likes—had to fail him, since Holden can tell that the old man didn’t want to do this.

Mr. Spencer Quotes in The Catcher in the Rye

The The Catcher in the Rye quotes below are all either spoken by Mr. Spencer or refer to Mr. Spencer. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Phoniness Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Little, Brown edition of The Catcher in the Rye published in 2001.
Chapter 2  Quotes

"Life is a game, boy. Life is a game that one plays according to the rules."

"Yes, sir. I know it is. I know it."

Game, my ass. Some game. If you get on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.

Related Characters: Holden Caulfield, Mr. Spencer
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Catcher in the Rye LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Catcher in the Rye PDF

Mr. Spencer Character Timeline in The Catcher in the Rye

The timeline below shows where the character Mr. Spencer appears in The Catcher in the Rye. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...Saxon Hall, he has also decided not to attend because he has plans to visit Mr. Spencer , his history teacher. Mr. Spencer is elderly and has come down with a nasty... (full context)
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon
...bid Pencey farewell. Glad to have gained this closure, Holden runs down the hill toward Mr. Spencer ’s house. (full context)
Chapter 2 
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon
Once inside Mr. Spencer ’s house, Holden feels depressed. He doesn’t like the way the house smells or looks,... (full context)
Phoniness Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Mr. Spencer greets Holden warmly and claims to be feeling great despite his appearance. Before long, he... (full context)
Phoniness Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Mr. Spencer asks Holden if his parents know about his expulsion yet, and Holden explains that Dr.... (full context)
Phoniness Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Mr. Spencer comments that he once met Holden’s parents, whom he thinks are “grand” people. This statement... (full context)
Phoniness Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
After reading Holden’s essay aloud, Mr. Spencer asks if Holden blames him for flunking him. Holden assures him that he doesn’t, but... (full context)
Phoniness Theme Icon
As Holden goes on at length, Mr. Spencer cuts him off and asks how he feels about failing out of Pencey. He also... (full context)
Phoniness Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon
When Mr. Spencer encourages Holden to plan for the future, Holden decides he has had enough. Although he... (full context)
Chapter 3
Phoniness Theme Icon
Madness, Depression, Suicide Theme Icon
...dorm, thinking as he goes about how good he is at lying. Although he told Mr. Spencer that he needed to collect his things from the gym, he doesn’t actually keep anything... (full context)
Chapter 22
Phoniness Theme Icon
Alienation and Meltdown Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
...says that even the nice teachers were still “phonies,” and he tells her about how Mr. Spencer used to act completely different whenever Dr. Thurmer sat in on his classes.  (full context)