CliffsNotes The Catcher in the Rye

By Stanley P. Baldwin | Go to book overview

Chapter 16

Summary

When Holden finishes his conversation with the two nuns, it is almost noon. He has two hours until he is to meet Sally at the Biltmore Hotel so he goes for a walk toward Broadway. He wants to buy a recording, for Phoebe, of an old song called “Little Shirley Beans.” Along the way, Holden notices an apparently underprivileged family walking home from church. The young son is walking in the street and singing.

Fortunately, the first music store that he visits has a copy of the record. Holden tries to telephone Jane, but her mother answers so he hangs up. Still burdened with the responsibility of procuring theater tickets, he chooses a play, I Know My Love, that he thinks Sally will like because it stars the Lunts. He decides to visit Central Park in hopes of finding Phoebe who often skates there on Sundays. He almost visits the Museum of Natural History but decides not to go in. Although he doesn’t feel like going through with the date, he catches a cab to meet Sally at the Biltmore Hotel as planned.


Commentary

Much of the chapter is devoted to Holden’s considerations of artistic performances. Simply put, he likes what he finds to be authentic and dislikes what he sees as phony. The dominating theme of the rest of the chapter is the mutability of time and its relationship to death.

The first example of Holden’s aesthetics in Chapter 16 is the recording that he wants to buy for Phoebe, an old song about a shy kid who won’t go out of her house because she is missing two front teeth. It is called “Little Shirley Beans” and is sung by the black jazz singer Estelle Fletcher. What Holden likes is that it is authentic. Despite the topic, it is neither maudlin nor sentimental. The artist sings it “very Dixieland and whorehouse,” not all mushy and cute the way he thinks a white girl would do it. Holden consistently holds in contempt any artist who caters to the audience at the expense of the work of art, even a song about a girl missing two front teeth. He feels the same way about

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CliffsNotes The Catcher in the Rye
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • CliffsNotes™ The Catcher in the Rye i
  • Table of Contents iii
  • How to Use This Book vi
  • Life and Background of the Author 1
  • Introduction to the Novel 7
  • Criticalcommentaries 21
  • Chapter 1 22
  • Chapter 2 25
  • Chapter 3 28
  • Chapter 4 31
  • Chapter 5 33
  • Chapters 6 and 7 35
  • Chapters 8 and 9 37
  • Chapter 10 41
  • Chapter 11 43
  • Chapter 12 45
  • Chapter 13 47
  • Chapter 14 49
  • Chapter 15 51
  • Chapter 16 53
  • Chapter 17 56
  • Chapters 18 and 19 59
  • Chapter 20 61
  • Chapter 21 63
  • Chapter 22 65
  • Chapter 23 68
  • Chapter 24 70
  • Chapters 25 and 26 73
  • Character Analyses 77
  • Critical Essays 85
  • CliffsNotes Review 93
  • CliffsNotes Resource Center 96
  • Index 99
  • Notes 103
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