Summary and Analysis Chapters 18-19



It is late afternoon or very early evening on Sunday. Holden telephones Carl Luce, whom he knew during his days at the Whooton School. Carl is three years older and was his student adviser. They agree to meet for a drink at the Wicker Bar in the Seton Hotel at 10:00 p.m. With time to kill, and since he is there already, he attends a stage show and movie at Radio City Music Hall. He sees the Rockettes, the Christmas pageant, and a war film. At the bar, Holden manages to get served, this time, even though he is underage. When Luce arrives, he reveals that he is dating an older woman, a Chinese sculptress in her late thirties who lives in Greenwich Village. He leaves for a date after having drinks with Holden.


These relatively insignificant chapters chronicle the beginning of Holden's slow descent into a hellish night. It is no surprise that he resents the artificiality of the stage show at Radio City or finds the war movie "putrid." The only wonder is that he attends at all.

On his way to the bar, Holden's reflections on the film lead to some further considerations of literature. He dislikes Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms (1929), apparently thinking of it as a war story and, of course, "phony"; but he appreciates F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (1925) and an unnamed work by Ring Lardner.

For a fellow who dislikes phonies so much, Holden collects more than his share; Luce is an obvious example. At the age of 19, he poses as a worldly sophisticate. Holden is slightly suspicious but impressed nonetheless. At Whooton, Luce presented himself to the younger boys as an expert on sex, his specialty supposedly being "perverts." Holden was, and still is, confused about the subject of sex, but he is very interested in Luce's insights. Luce's alleged Shanghai girlfriend, in her late thirties, fascinates Holden. He thinks maybe he should move to China and get in on some of the "philosophy" that Luce espouses. Then he wonders if he should pursue psychoanalysis, because Luce, whose father is a psychoanalyst, speaks well of it.

The sad truth is that Holden does not know which way to turn, and he will spend the rest of the night demonstrating it. He is intrigued by anyone who seems to have a handle on life. His own sexuality bothers him, as he openly admits in the conversation with Luce. Holden thinks he has a problem because he has to like a girl a lot in order to be intimate with her. If Luce were nearly as mature, or perceptive, as he likes to pretend, he would simply tell Holden that the slightly younger man's feelings are admirable.


Lastex trademarked term for a fine, round, rubber thread wound with cotton, rayon, silk, etc., and woven or knitted into fabric.

half gainer a fancy dive in which the diver springs from the board facing forward and does a back flip in the air so as to enter the water headfirst, facing the board.

inferiority complex any feeling of inferiority, inadequacy, etc.; originally a psychiatric term.

Rockettes dancers at New York City's Radio City Music Hall, known for their chorus-line precision.

Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English novelist.

Great Dane any of a breed of very large, muscular dog with pointed, erect ears, a square muzzle, and a short, thick, smooth coat.

furlough a leave of absence granted to military enlisted personnel for a specified period.

Ring Lardner (1885-1933) U.S. sports reporter and humorist.

louse a person regarded as mean, contemptible, etc.

snowing deceiving, misleading, or winning over by glib talk, flattery, etc.

goose to prod suddenly and playfully in the backside so as to startle.