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Chapter 2

Chapter 2

Holden guesses his history teacher, Mr. Spencer, is "around seventy years old," but likes the fact that the Spencers still "got a bang out of things, though-in a half-assed way, of course." Holden has a very sensitive way of dwelling on objects, like the old bathrobe Mr. Spencer's wearing: "It was pretty depressing .... old Spencer had on this very sad, ratty old bathrobe that he was probably born in or something." The scene of his old teacher surrounded by tissues and flu medications makes Holden uncomfortable and almost regret he'd come to say goodbye.

Old Spencer talks with Holden about being expelled (from approximately his fourth school!), and Holden says that the principal will be writing to his parents on Monday (today is Saturday) to inform them, but that he hasn't told them yet himself. Holden is getting more uncomfortable both with being with the sick Mr. Spencer and with the direction the conversation's going, and his thought process shows this - when Mr. Spencer calls his parents "grand people," Holden thinks: "Grand. There's a word I really hate. It's a phony. I could puke every time I hear it." Eventually, Mr. Spencer asks the question Holden's been dreading: "What's the matter with you, boy?" He makes Holden bring out his history final exam and reads some of it to him. "It certainly was a dirty trick," Holden thinks. Though he is uncomfortable and embarrassed by his final exam, Holden realizes that Mr. Spencer is not only trying to lecture him, but also trying to justify giving him an F because he genuinely seems to like Holden.

While being lectured by Mr. Spencer, Holden's mind drifts, and he thinks about the ducks in the small lagoon in New York City's Central Park, and wonders where they go in the wintertime when the water's frozen over: "I wondered if some guy came in a truck and took them away to a zoo or something. Or if they just flew away." Holden will continue to wonder about the ducks throughout the book.

Mr. Spencer asks him about all the schools he's gone to and why he doesn't seem concerned about his future. Holden thinks back to Elkton Hills, a boarding school he left voluntarily, because he was surrounded by "phonies" - his word for anyone he thinks is a hypocrite. Holden thinks almost everyone is a phony, except for children. But Holden singles out the headmaster of Elkton Hills as "the phoniest bastard I ever met in my life," because Holden noticed that when parents visited, he would talk "for maybe half an hour" with the rich parents, but merely shake hands with the poorer and badly dressed parents. Holden thinks: "I can't stand that stuff... I hated that goddam Elkton Hills." He eventually escapes from the Spencers' with the excuse that he has to get his stuff from the school gym.

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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