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Free Study Guide-The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger-Free BookNotes
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Chapter 14

Summary

After Sunny leaves, Holden smokes a few cigarettes and thinks about a time he refused to take his little brother Allie with him somewhere. The thought depresses him, and he unexpectedly gets into bed with the urge to pray. When he tries to form the words of a prayer, all he can hear is Sunny calling him a "crumb- bum". As he decides to get up and have another cigarette, there is a knock on his door. Maurice and Sunny are waiting outside. The pimp demands another five dollars from Holden, insisting that the price was ten dollars. Holden refuses to pay in a voice that was "shaking like hell". As Maurice threatens him, Sunny goes into the room and takes an additional five dollars from Holdenís wallet. Totally frustrated, Holden bursts into tears and challenges Maurice to a fight. Maurice punches Holden in the stomach. He falls to the floor, crying and hurt, as Maurice and Sunny leave. When Holden gets off the floor and collects his thoughts, he imagines himself killing Maurice in the elevator. He also fantasizes that he is a tough guy from the movies, who has been shot in the abdomen, and he pictures himself committing suicide by jumping from the window. Holden tries to calm himself by taking a bath; he then attempts to go to sleep.

Notes

While Holden sits alone in his room, his depression seems unbearable. He focuses on a time long ago when he refused to take his little brother Allie somewhere he wanted to go. Holden wishes he could un-do that wrong. Feeling total guilt over his dead brother, he is hit with the urge to pray, even though he is an atheist. Unfortunately, he cannot form the words for a prayer, because he keeps hearing Sunny calling him "crumb-bum."


Although Holden is a totally vulnerable character, he does not like his vulnerabilities being exposed. This is evident in his wish that he was dressed when Maurice and Sunny barge in on him. As he threatens Maurice, he feels weak, and his voice is shaking, but he feels if he were wearing clothes, at least he could have maintained a certain amount of dignity. It is for the same reason that he would have "given anything" to not have started crying in front of them.

Holden reveals a lot about his philosophy of life in this chapter, especially when he claims to be an atheist. He says, "I like Jesus and all, but I donít care too much for most of the other stuff in the Bible". What Holden really dislikes is the preaching of religious texts and their teachers. He believes that Jesus is generous and forgiving, and that he would have forgiven even Judas. In Holdenís mind, it is the disciples who are the true phonies as they pretended to be Christ-like but were never generous like their Master. Holden, therefore, says his problem is not with God, but with religion that is rooted in dogma and preached by "phonies".

When prayer does not come to comfort Holden, he consoles himself with delusions of murder and death. He imagines himself as a tough guy who, despite being shot in the abdomen, manages his revenge quite successfully. He pictures himself killing Maurice in the elevator. Then Holden imagines killing himself by jumping out the window to the street below, but he cannot bear the thought of lying dead on the streets with a crowd of people gathering to look at his body. If he could only be sure somebody would cover him up as soon as he landed, he might consider it. In the end, he accepts reality and acknowledges there is no escape from the pain and misery of his existence.

It is important to note that this chapter represents a mini-climax, another peak in the continuing rising action. It is the second fight that Holden experiences in the book. As in the first fight against Stradlater, Holden is defeated by Maurice, which makes him feel weaker and more miserable than ever. He even contemplates suicide, but is not strong enough to carry through with even that plan, making a weak excuse for himself. Holden continues his downward spiral, from which there seems to be no return. In fact, Holden acknowledges at the end of this chapter that there is no escape from the pain and misery of his existence.

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