Summary and Analysis
Critics disagree about Holden's motivation. In The Catcher in the Rye: Innocence Under Pressure (published by Simon & Schuster), Sanford Pinsker appreciates the humor of the encounter but sees "disguised hostility" in Holden. Is Caulfield mean-spirited here, or is he merely trying to make Mrs. Morrow feel good? We know that Holden can be cruel, as evidenced, for example, by his fascination with Ackley's physical shortcomings (his problems with acne, his round-shouldered homeliness). On the surface, Holden seems to be kind to Mrs. Morrow, telling us that he likes her. We might fast forward, however, to the conversation that soon may take place between Mrs. Morrow and Ernest. She most likely will learn that Rudolf Schmidt is the janitor, and she will know that she has been tricked by the boy she met on the train. Is Holden sufficiently aware to realize this, or is he just careless?
Because of his situation and his view of the world, Holden is lonely. When he arrives at Penn Station, he enters a phone booth to call someone but can't think of anyone he can reach out to at that time of night. (It must be well after l:00 a.m.) He takes a cab to the Edmont Hotel but initially and, it seems, inadvertently, gives the driver his parents' address. Psychoanalytical critics jump on this as a Freudian slip (a mistake made in speaking, by which, it is thought, a person inadvertently reveals unconscious motives or desires) that reveals Holden's subconscious yearning for home. That may be. Or it could be just what he says it is: habit.
At the Edmont, Holden is assigned to a "very crumby" room with a view of nothing but the other side of the hotel. The view, however, proves somewhat interesting. In one room is a transvestite, a distinguished-looking older gentleman enjoying himself as he dons silk stockings, high heels, a bra, a corset, and a black evening dress. In another, a couple laughingly spits some kind of liquid — perhaps water or alcohol — all over each other. Although Holden decides that the hotel is filled with "perverts," he likes to watch. He is concerned about his own sexuality and confesses that he has certain yearnings but doesn't understand sex very well. Like many young people, he has made rules (apparently of limitation or abstinence) for himself but usually breaks them, sometimes soon after they are made.
Having been reminded of sex, Holden recalls that a Princeton student gave him the number of a girl in New York who reportedly is very friendly and, though not a prostitute, is casual sexually. Holden calls Miss Faith Cavendish, probably waking her up, and fails to convince her that she should see him that night. She does offer to meet him the next day, but Holden declines and ends the conversation; he immediately regrets the lost opportunity — a terribly lame attempt at intimacy.
earlap earflap; either of a pair of cloth or fur flaps on a cap, turned down to protect the ears from cold.
lousy with rocks here, wearing a good deal of jewelry, possibly diamonds.
cocktail any of various alcoholic drinks made of a distilled liquor mixed with a wine, fruit juice, etc., and usually iced.
incognito with true identity unrevealed or disguised; under an assumed name, rank, etc.
bellboy a person employed by a hotel, club, etc. to carry luggage and do errands.
highballs tall glasses of liquor, usually whiskey or brandy, mixed with water, soda water, ginger ale, etc. and served with ice.
suave smoothly gracious or polite; polished; blandly ingratiating; urbane.
Princeton a prestigious university in Princeton, New Jersey; part of the Ivy League, a group of colleges in the northeastern United States forming a league for intercollegiate sports and other activities.