What Happens at the End of Catcher in the Rye
If you really want to hear about it, you’ll probably want to know about my lousy childhood, and where I was born, or maybe what my parents do for a living if you’re feeling especially phony. But it’s not like I’m going to tell you my whole goddam autobiography, for Chrissake. I’ll just tell you about some of the crazy stuff that happened to me around last Christmas after they kicked me out of Pencey and before I got sort of depressed and had to come out to this crumby place to take it easy. Anyway, you’ve probably heard of Pencey, or seen one of those magazine ads that every rich parent really gets a bang out of. You know, the one of some stud on a horse jumping over a fence that’s always captioned “Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men”. What a load of crap. I’ve never once seen a horse anywhere near the place. I really haven’t. And I didn’t know any splendid, clear-thinking guys there. Maybe two, but they probably got there like that anyhow. What a load of crap. But it has pretty high academic ratings. It really does. Anyway, when I was there, I shared a room with this handsome bastard, Stradlater. He had some date and asked me to do a favor for him. Write his paper. Stradlater was the kind of guy who was always asking for big favors. And to think I was the one flunking out of the goddam place. What a bastard. At least he was friendly. In a sort of phony way, but still friendly. Such a pain in the ass though. I just about died when he told me who he had the date with. Jane Gallagher. She lived next door to me the summer before last. I told Stradlater about how I used to play checkers with her, and she wouldn’t move her kings. She’d just leave them all lined up in the back row. Liked the way they looked, I guess. Stradlater wasn’t listening though. Just kept combing and parting and re-parting his hair. He didn’t care about that sort of stuff. He was only interested in sexy stuff.
I just couldn’t get Jane out of my head. Stradlater said he would give her my regards, but I knew he wouldn’t. I had finished his goddam essay for him, but I don’t remember just exactly what I was doing when Stradlater came back from his date with Jane. I was just too damn worried. If you knew Stradlater as I did, you would be too. I’d seen enough of that bastard’s dating to know that when it came to girls, he didn’t have much of a moral compass. He really didn’t. He didn’t say a single word about Jane when he came back. He just asked me if I’d written his goddam essay for him. He read it. Said it wasn’t descriptive enough, that I did it wrong. He was mad as hell. Didn’t say a single word about Jane. Eventually, I brought her up. Asked him if he gave her my regards. He said he did. Sure he did. Bastard. I asked him some more questions, he wouldn’t tell me what he did with her. Imagining him…doing things…to her… really infuriated me. I asked again, this time my voice was shaking something awful. He brushed it off. That’s when I swung at him. I missed though. The next thing I knew I was on the floor and after what felt like about 10 years of yelling, my face was covered in blood. At that point, I’d sure as hell had enough of Pencey. They were going to kick me out in three days anyhow, so it’s not like I’d be missing anything. I didn’t want to hang around there anymore. It was depressing the hell out of me. It really was. I figured it’d take a couple of days for the letter to reach my parents and I didn’t want to be around there when they first got it. I knew my mother would get all hysterical when she saw I’d been kicked out again. It would be better after she mulled over it for a couple of days though. I needed a bit of a vacation anyway. So I got on a train to New York. Figured I’d take a cheap room for a couple of nights. I was pretty loaded. My grandma’s old as hell and is sort of losing her marbles. She sends me a wad of cash about four times a year for my birthday. While I was in New York, I mostly just sort of bummed around. Plenty of weird stuff happened, from visiting a nice natural history museum where everything stays the same, to hiring a prostitute but backing out and not actually doing anything. But I won’t spoil all that for you, just in case you do decide to read this goddam book. It’s a pretty good book, it really is.
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Anyway, after all that, I snuck into my own place and woke up my kid sister Phoebe. When I told her I got kicked out, she got really upset. She said I don’t like anything. She bet I couldn’t think of one thing I’d like to be, you know, like a lawyer or a surgeon or something. But I know what I’d really like to be if I could choose. I keep imagining that I’m in a field of rye, and there are all these kids running around and playing in it and all, thousands of them. And there’s nobody…nobody big around except me. And there’s a cliff at the edge of the rye, and what I’d have to do would be to catch any kids that weren’t paying attention and were about to fall off or something. I would just catch them all day. I know it sounds pretty crazy, but that’s really all I’d like to do. Just be a catcher in the rye.