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Chapter 16

Chapter 16

Holden goes for a walk, trying to picture his mother, his aunt, or Sally Hayes's mother collecting for charity dressed like the nuns. Holden feels sad for the nuns because he knows that unlike those three, they "never went anywhere swanky for lunch." He decides to head in the direction of Broadway to find a store at which to buy his kid sister Phoebe a record. The record he's searching for is by Estelle Fletcher, a sultry-voiced black singer who sings a song called "Little Shirley Beans" in a manner Holden describes as "very Dixieland and whorehouse." He plans to look for his sister afterwards in the park where she often roller-skates.

Walking down the street, Holden falls into step behind a family going home from church. The mother and father are ignoring their son, who is walking not on the sidewalk but along the edge of the street, singing a song, which Holden identifies as "If a body catch a body coming through the rye." (Note that this is the first reference to the title of the novel). Cars nearly hit the young boy, but he keeps walking in the street, singing to himself. Somehow this makes Holden feel better.

Holden buys the record for his sister. He then calls Jane to see if she's home, but her mother answers so he hangs up, not in the mood for talking to anyone's mother. He buys the tickets for a matinee performance to see with Sally. It's not a show he expects to like, but he figures Sally will because it's supposed to be dry and sophisticated. This leads him to the subject of actors, which he doesn't think act like real people at all. He dismisses Sit Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, which he saw with Phoebe and D.B., as "too much like a goddam general, instead of a sad, screwed-up guy."

He doesn't see his sister in the park, so he asks a girl if she knows Phoebe. She answers that she does, but that Phoebe's class is at the museum today. But Holden remembers that today is Sunday. He helps her tighten her roller-skates, and she thanks him politely. He asks her if she'd like to get hot chocolate together, but she has to go meet a friend. Although his sister is not there, Holden heads towards the Museum of Natural History anyway. He remembers going there on school trips himself, and remembers the life-size mannequins of Indians engaged in rowing a canoe, making a fire, etc. The best part about the Indians, Holden decides, is that they never changed - they are always frozen in the same moment. The only thing that had changed would be oneself - the exhibit would be exactly the same. He thinks how his sister would be different, changed, between one visit to the museum and the next, and wishes it didn't have to be this way: "Certain things they should stay the way they are. You ought to be able to stick them in one of those big glass cases and just leave them alone." This suggests Holden's fear of growing up, suggested throughout the book. Instead of going in the museum, however, he catches a cab to go meet Sally Hayes.

Browse all book notes

Historical Context
Main Characters
Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Plot Summary
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 8 and 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17 and 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21 and 22
Chapter 23 and 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26


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