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Free Study Guide for The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES


CHAPTER 4


Summary


Holden follows Stradlater to the bathroom, where they spend some time talking. Stradlater asks Holden to write a descriptive essay for him since he is going out on a date. Holden agrees to write the composition and is surprised to find out that Stradlater’s date is Jane Gallagher, a girl that Holden knows well from childhood and likes. He tells Stradlater some things about Jane, including how well she dances and how she keeps the kings in the back row while playing checkers. Stradlater, uninterested in Holden’s trivia, quickly gets ready and leaves. Holden sits in his room thinking about Jane and Stradlater until Ackley returns.


Notes


In this Chapter, the negative Holden compares the handsome, athletic Stradlater to the pathetic Ackley, calling them both "slobs." In truth, Holden is much more like Ackley than Stradlater. He follows his roommate into the bathroom and badgers Stradlater with questions and trivia, in an annoying manner similar to Ackley. Holden, like Ackley, is seeking acceptance and connection; but his behavior alienates him, and the reader knows that the popular Stradlater probably judges him in the same low estimation that he judges Ackley. Proof of this lies in the fact that he barely listens to Holden when he talks about Jane. He also gets out of the room as quickly as possible, but not before asking Holden to write an essay for him.

Stradlater is all the things that Holden cannot be -- well built, athletic, "handsome in a Year Book sort of way," and popular among the girls. Though Holden does not detest Stradlater, he does envy him, even if it is at a subconscious level; the envy is apparently strengthened when he finds out that Stradlater is dating Jane Gallagher. Holden feels protective toward Jane since he has known her since childhood and is familiar with her insecurities; he is particularly worried that Stradlater might try to have sex with her. On the other hand, Holden is not self-confident enough to pursue Jane for himself.



CHAPTER 5


Summary


Holden has dinner in the dormitory, where steak is always served on Saturday night. After dinner, Holden indulges in throwing snowballs and horsing around with some fellow students. He then agrees to go into Agerstown with his friend Mel Brossard and Ackley. Both Brossard and Ackley have already seen the movie that is playing, so they simply eat hamburgers and play pinball before heading back to the dorm. Broussard goes to play cards, and Ackley pesters Holden, who finally tells him he has to leave for he has an essay to write, obviously the one for Stradlater. In the composition, he describes the baseball glove that belonged to his little brother Allie, who died from leukemia. Allie had written poems in green ink all over his baseball glove so he would have something to read when he played outfield. Holden cherishes the mitt, keeping it with him at school.


Notes


Another, more social side of Holden is seen in this chapter. After Saturday supper in the dorm, he goes outside with fellow students to play in the snow and horse around. He even goes into town with his friend Mel Broussard. Ackley comes with them, proving that Holden is really not so repulsed by Ackley as he would have it seem. Back at school, Broussard goes off to play cards, and Ackley follows Holden to his room and pesters him.

Ackley is told to leave so that Holden can write the essay for Stradlater. His willingness to do his roommate’s schoolwork, while he is out on a date, is an indication that Holden wants to be accepted by Stradlater. As a subject, he chooses a baseball mitt that belonged to his little brother Allie. He admits that he treasures the mitt, revealing the sensitive side of Holden.

The mention of the mitt provides entry to another flashback. Holden idolized this little brother and reacted violently to Allie’s untimely death. In reaction to the deep hurt he was feeling at the loss, Holden violently broke windows, injuring himself in the process; he also refused to sleep in the house, staying in the garage. It is important to note that the two people Holden has cared about the most, his brothers D.B. and Allie, have been separated from him--one by career and the other by death. Part of Holden’s alienation obviously stems from this fact.

 

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