Summary and Analysis Chapter 20



Holden stays at the bar and gets quite drunk. He decides to telephone Jane Gallagher but calls Sally Hayes instead. She tells him to go home and go to bed. Holden strikes up a conversation with the piano player. He tells Holden to go home and go to bed. Holden asks the hatcheck girl for a date. She tells him to go home and go to bed. Ignoring the unanimous advice, Holden heads for Central Park to look for the ducks. The search is in vain, and he manages to break Phoebe's record in the process. Holden reflects on Allie's funeral, which he could not attend because he was in the hospital with his broken hand (and possibly for emotional evaluation). His memory of Allie's grave at the cemetery depresses him. Finally, he decides to sneak home and visit Phoebe in case he dies, too.


From time to time throughout the novel, Holden has Jane on his mind. He wants to reach out to her but decides not to or fails in his attempt. In one of his better moves, he decides he is too drunk to call Jane. But Sally is a different matter. Despite the late hour, and the fact that her grandmother says Sally is asleep, she comes to the phone. Holden tells her, "Rocky's mob got me." In his mind, he is playing gangsters again. Under the circumstances, Sally is remarkably understanding and even suggests that he call her the next day.

Holden's confused quest continues. At the park, he has a difficult time finding the lagoon. When he does, there are no ducks. Wherever the ducks go during winter, they apparently have gone. Holden is cold, drunk, and alone. Now he notices that he is also nearly broke. He has three ones, five quarters, and a nickel with him. With the wisdom of the inebriated, he decides to skip the coins across the part of the lagoon that is not frozen.

Holden's memories of Allie continue to haunt him. It wouldn't be so bad if Allie weren't in that "crazy cemetery" surrounded by tombstones and dead people. Holden wonders about his own mortality, which is a major part of his obsession with Allie's death. He wonders whether he is getting pneumonia and speculates on his family's reaction to his tragic passing. It would be especially hard on Phoebe, he concludes, so he leaves the park to see her.


halitosis bad-smelling breath.