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CHAPTERS 18 & 19
Now that his date is over, Holden starts thinking about girls again. "The trouble with girls," Holden says, "is, if they like a boy, no matter how big a bastard he is, they'll say he has an inferiority complex, and if they don't like him, no matter how nice a guy he is, or how big an inferiority complex he has, they'll say he's conceited. Even smart girls do it."
Even Jane Gallagher, the girl he has idealized in his mind, has been known to do it. What he's saying is that sexual attraction can make girls see things the way they want them to be, instead of the way they are.
He seems to forget, though, that he does the same thing himself. Near the beginning of Chapter 15, Holden told us that when he necks with a girl, he has to think she's intelligent, even if she isn't. He wants to believe he can have relationships only with girls he respects, but he puts his standards aside as readily as the girls about whom he's complaining.
He's alone again, and he wants to be with somebody. When he gets no answer at Jane Gallagher's number, he calls an older boy who used to be his adviser at the school he attended before Pencey. They agree to meet that night, and Holden has several hours to kill.
What does he do? He goes to Radio City Music Hall, showing himself once again to be a jumble of contradictions. How many times has he told us he hates movies? Remember how depressed he became when he heard the three women at the hotel bar talking about going to Radio City? You'd think he'd rather die than go into the place. And here he is spending several hours there.
Needless to say, he finds it all very depressing. He's especially upset by the religious spectacle commemorating Christmas-a yearly event for which Radio City is world famous. It leads, naturally enough, to some thoughts about Jesus, and that brings Allie to mind.
Notice how casually Holden can move from Jesus to Allie, and don't miss the importance of that. Allie is as much a religious figure to him as Jesus, maybe even more so. When Holden's condition worsens later on, you'll see him begin to pray to his dead brother.
After these thoughts about Radio City and religion, Holden starts talking about the movie. He gives a detailed summary of the plot, all the while telling us how much he hated it. "It was so putrid I couldn't take my eyes off it." But he was interested enough to have remembered every twist of the plot, no matter how trite it was.
The people in the audience at the theater upset him, as do the patrons at the bar where Ernie played the piano. His comments now are beginning to sound repetitious. He says the same thing at Radio City that he said at Ernie's and at the play he saw with Sally. He becomes upset at these performances because he thinks people are applauding the grandstanding and showing off, not the talent. He becomes even more upset at the possibility that the performers themselves no longer know the difference between showing off and creating something beautiful. (See the Author's Life and Times for some thoughts on how this sentiment may reflect Salinger's attitude.)
After the movie, Holden walks to the bar where he is to meet Carl Luce, an older boy who used to be his adviser. Early in Chapter 18, he describes Luce as "one of those very intellectual guys." Early in Chapter 19, Holden adds enough about him to suggest that Luce may be a sex pervert. In any case, Luce always seemed preoccupied with sex, and sex is what Holden wants to talk to him about.
Luce, however, is now a college student, more discreet than he was a few years ago when he talked sex with the younger boys in the school. But Holden keeps pushing to get him to talk. As Sally did a few hours earlier, Luce tells Holden more than once to keep his voice down. Though Holden denied it in the afternoon, he admits now that he was "talking a little too loud." He may even be beginning to sound hysterical.
His tone and his insistence on talking about sex almost guarantee that this conversation will end as most of Holden's attempts at communication have. Luce cuts it short and leaves. But not before Holden begs him to stay awhile. "Please," he says. "I'm lonesome as hell. No kidding."
But Luce, like Sally, is a semistranger. He has little compassion for this boy he barely knows, and Holden has done very little in their few minutes together to earn any.