The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 17: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will summarize the Chapter 17 of the J.D. Salinger novel, 'The Catcher in the Rye.' We will learn about Holden's much dreaded date with Sally Hayes.

The Date

Holden Caulfield is spending some time alone in New York City before going home for winter break. Feeling lonely and depressed, Holden calls a girl he doesn't really like that much, Sally Hayes. He invites her to see a Broadway show with him. In Chapter 17 of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, we learn more about their date.

The Biltmore

Arriving early at the Biltmore Hotel to meet Sally, Holden sits on the couch in the lobby to wait for Sally, admiring the view of the other girls who are there. What starts as appreciation for their legs turns into wondering what will happen to each of them. He starts feeling sorry for them because most will probably marry some jerk. When Sally arrives, looking amazing, Holden forgets everything he thinks about how dumb and phony Sally is: 'The funny part is, I felt like marrying her the minute I saw her. I'm crazy. I didn't even like her much, and yet all of a sudden I felt like I was in love with her and wanted to marry her. I swear to God I'm crazy. I admit it.' Sally is late, but Holden doesn't care because she looks so good. She is thrilled to find out they will see a play with the Lunts in it.

Lynn Fontanne stars with her husband, Alfred Lunt.
Lynn Fontanne

The Broadway Show


On the way to the show, Holden convinces Sally to make out with him a little. In the middle of it, Holden tells Sally that he loves her. Is this really love or something else? 'Then, just to show you how crazy I am, when we were coming out of this big clinch, I told her I loved her and all. It was a lie, of course, but the thing is, I meant it when I said it. I'm crazy. I swear to God I am.'


The show isn't the worst Holden's seen, but the Lunts kind of remind him of Ernie at the nightclub (who reminded him of his brother, D.B.). All are talented artists, but end up selling-out to the crowd. Holden thinks sell-outs are phony. 'They acted a little bit the way old Ernie, down in the Village, plays the piano. If you do something too good, then, after a while, if you don't watch it, you start showing off. And then you're not as good any more.' At intermission, Sally sees some 'Ivy League' guy she knows, and they start the most boring conversation Holden has ever heard about people they know in different places. 'I sort of hated old Sally by the time we got in the cab, after listening to that phony Andover bastard for about ten hours.'


After the show, Sally has the idea to go ice-skating at Radio City. It turns out that what she really wants to do is rent one of those short ice-skating skirts to show off in front of Holden. 'She kept walking ahead of me, so that I'd see how cute her little ass looked. It did look pretty cute, too. I have to admit it.' They are both terrible iceskaters, though. Holden invites her to go inside for a drink.

Drinks and Conversation

Sally tries to make small talk, but Holden has some things he needs to get off his chest. He wants to talk about how much he hates school and New York. Sally seems uncomfortable with the conversation and keeps telling him to lower his voice even though he isn't being loud. Holden tells Sally that she is the only reason he is in New York and then invites her to run away with him, get jobs, and get married. Sally is clearly upset by the proposition and begins to cry.

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