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Barron's Booknotes-The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger-Free Booknotes/Synopsis
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CHAPTER 4

In Chapter 3 Holden told us about someone he doesn't like-Ackley-who intruded on his privacy and generally made a nuisance of himself. Holden's feelings are easy to understand, because Ackley doesn't do much to endear himself to anyone.

In this chapter Holden talks with his roommate, Ward Stradlater. He agrees to write a descriptive composition for Stradlater. Though Stradlater isn't exactly a friend, he is someone Holden gets along with. Even so, Holden finds it as easy to criticize Stradlater as he does Ackley.

Although Holden talks about Stradlater in a friendlier way than he talked about Ackley, he criticizes Stradlater's whistling and his shaving habits. He admits that his roommate is handsome, but then withdraws the compliment by criticizing the kind of handsomeness he has. He brands Stradlater as insensitive and even adds that "he was a little bit like Ackley."

NOTE:

Although the conversation he has with Stradlater is very different from the one he had with Ackley, Holden's Criticisms sound very much alike to us. As you read, you'll find that Holden has trouble talking about almost anyone without being critical. This should set off a warning signal. If he complains so much about people, how valid can his complaints be? There's a possibility that the problem is with Holden, not with the people he knows.

Actually Holden doesn't complain about everyone. He has completely positive feelings about three people. He'll tell you about one, Jane Gallagher, in this chapter. In Chapter 5 you'll learn about a second one. The third person will enter the story later on.

While Holden is watching Stradlater shave in the bathroom, he does a spoof of a kind of musical movie that was popular during the 1930s and 1940s. He pretends to be the governor's son, who wants to become a tap dancer, against his father's wishes.

While he's telling us about it, he says, "I hate the movies like poison, but I get a bang imitating them." This might remind you of how he characterized his brother, D. B., in the first chapter. "Now he's out in Hollywood... being a prostitute."


NOTE:

Holden will criticize movies a great deal throughout the book, but you'll find that he sees enough of them to qualify as a fan. His attitude toward movies (like his attitude toward many other things) is a mixture of acceptance and rejection. Something about movies makes him want to dislike them, but he seems to be drawn to them in spite of what he believes. Watch for other examples of this double-edged attitude, not only toward movies, but toward people and institutions.

Stradlater says that because of a change in plans he's dating a girl who knows Holden. When Holden finds out it's Jane Gallagher, he becomes flustered and begins babbling about the summer he spent living near her. (When he asks about "B. M." Holden wants to know if Jane attends Bryn Mawr, a noted college in Pennsylvania.)

With Stradlater ignoring him, Holden talks at length about Jane, catching his roommate's attention only when he mentions something that seems to suggest sex. "Only very sexy stuff interested him," Holden explains.

What interests Holden most about Jane, however, is something she used to do when they played checkers that summer. She'd put all her kings in the back row and leave them there because they looked so pretty. pretty.

Stradlater finds this boring. But Holden brings it up again just before his roommate leaves. Although he doesn't tell us why, Holden seems to think there's something vitally important in this quirk of Jane Gallagher's. It's likely that the quirk has a good deal to do with his fond memories of that summer, but we don't know yet for certain. In any case, Jane seems to be one of the vulnerable people in Holden's mind, and he tries to say something to that effect to Stradlater, who ignores him. The result is that Holden is afraid that Stradlater's good looks and smooth manner will allow him to take advantage of Jane. By the time Stradlater leaves, Holden is angry with him.

Thinking about the two of them on a date "made me so nervous I nearly went crazy," Holden tells us. He's so upset that he's glad to see Ackley barge back into his room.

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