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Barron's Booknotes-The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger-Free Booknotes/Synopsis
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CHAPTERS 13 & 14

Holden's red hunting hat reappears at the beginning of Chapter 13. He bought the hat right after he lost the fencing equipment on his trip with the team. Some critics have suggested that the hat symbolizes Holden's alienation from the world in which he lives. Holden bought it, after all, when the team members "ostracized" him, and it does set him apart from everyone else.

If you don't feel comfortable with symbolism, you can think of the hat as a sign of Holden's eccentricity, a poster that announces, "I'm not like the rest of you." It isn't of major importance, but even minor things should be considered when you're analyzing a character as complex as Holden.

As he's walking the forty-one blocks from Ernie's bar to the hotel, Holden misses his gloves, which he thinks were stolen at school. He thinks about what he might have done if he'd caught the thief, and this leads him to say, "I'm one of these very yellow guys." By "yellow," Holden means he doesn't like fighting. In fact he might take any route to avoid it.

His imaginary dialogue with the thief who stole his gloves is rather funny. In his mind he begins by accusing the thief, then tempering the accusation, then backing off, then leaving the room to go to the bathroom and look tough in the mirror. Most people find the imaginary dialogue funny because most people are as reluctant to fight as Holden is.

Holden, however, has an excuse for not fighting in a situation like the one he's described: "I never seem to have anything that if I lost it I'd care too much," he says, meaning that none of his possessions seems important enough to justify fighting. Still, he doesn't let himself off that easily. He's ashamed of not being willing to fight. "What you should be," he says, "is not yellow at all."

He adds that he hates fights because he's more afraid of hurting someone than of being hurt. But even that isn't an acceptable excuse. It's just "a funny kind of yellowness."

Holden is torn between two standards of behavior-the traditional "macho" standard and the gentle one that comes more naturally to him. His weak self- image won't allow him to entertain the idea that his own standard of behavior is preferable.

Thinking about yellowness depresses him. He reaches his hotel and walks inside. The lobby depresses him, so he enters the elevator. When the elevator operator offers to get a woman for him, he accepts because he's so depressed.

While he's waiting for the prostitute to come to his room, Holden thinks about sex, a subject he has already told us confuses him a great deal. Like his thoughts on cowardice, much of what he says about sex will sound very, very familiar-and therefore probably funny.

When he was talking about being "yellow," Holden said he was afraid of hurting someone in a fight. Here he says he doesn't want to take advantage of girls. Girls in general seem to fit into Holden's classification of vulnerable people, and that, of course, complicates his feelings about sex.

By the time Sunny, the prostitute, reaches his room, Holden is a nervous wreck. He works hard at appearing urbane, but Sunny seems hardly aware of him. In no time at all he's feeling sorry for her, and he tells her he isn't in the mood for sex. She asks for double the price mentioned by the elevator operator, but he refuses to give her more than he agreed to.

The time he spends with the prostitute depresses him further. It also has another effect on him, one that he can describe only as "peculiar." That's an odd word for Holden to use, and, in fact, it signals that something is happening to him. Think of his memory blackouts. Think of the time he felt that he was disappearing. Then look at what he does after Sunny leaves.

He sits down and starts talking to Allie, his dead brother. "I do that sometimes when I get very depressed," he tells us. He talks about something he did to Allie once, something that makes him feel guilty when he thinks about it. And he tells us he thinks about it when he gets depressed.

The part about Allie is followed by Holden's thoughts on Jesus and the Disciples. (The Disciples, or Apostles, were twelve men whom Jesus chose to help him preach his new doctrines. What Holden refers to as "the Bible" is actually the New Testament, which describes the life and teachings of Jesus.)

Holden loves Jesus, but he has little use for the Disciples. Jesus taught that people should love one another without qualifications. Holden believes that Jesus meant that literally, and lived up to it. The Disciples, however, were ordinary men who had difficulty carrying out Jesus' teachings to the letter. Holden doesn't have much patience with them, and that should tell you how high-how impossible-a standard he uses to measure people.

The elevator operator returns with Sunny and demands another five dollars. Holden stands up to him, but it's clear from the beginning that they'll get the money out of him. In his anger, Holden insults the elevator operator, who punches him in the stomach.

Then Holden treats us to another of his affectionate movie tributes. He ends it, as always, by criticizing the movies, but by this time we should have learned to stop paying attention to his criticisms. The movie scenario is his way of turning a frightening, painful, and humiliating situation into a near- heroic one.

It's now Sunday morning, and we've been with Holden for less than twenty- four hours.

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