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Barron's Booknotes-The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger-Free Booknotes/Synopsis
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CHAPTER 5

Holden decides to go into town to see a movie with another boy, Mal Brossard, and he asks Brossard if it would be all right to invite Ackley, "because Ackley never did anything on Saturday night, except stay in his room and squeeze his pimples or something." He tells us this without commenting on the irony of his wanting to invite someone he finds annoying, even disgusting.

NOTE:

If you think about it briefly, you'll realize what a selfless gesture this is. And the fact that Holden doesn't comment on it suggests that the selflessness comes naturally and doesn't even call for a comment.

The point is that Holden is beginning to reveal himself as a very good- hearted person. If you didn't see it in Chapter 1, when he said he liked Selma Thurmer in spite of the fact that she wasn't attractive or popular; if you didn't see it when he tried to keep Mr. Spencer from feeling bad about flunking him; if you didn't see it in the concern he expressed for Jane Gallagher, a girl he hasn't seen in nearly two years, then you should begin to see it now. In spite of what Holden would have us believe, he's a pretty good guy.

While he's waiting for Ackley to get ready for the movies, Holden opens a window and makes a snowball. His unwillingness to throw it comes from his appreciation for the untouched snow that looks "so nice and white." There's something in freshly fallen snow that affects everybody that way, but the clean perfection of the scene may have a special meaning for Holden. That perfection is related to innocence, which you'll find is very important to Holden. The really significant part of this chapter is the section about Allie, Holden's younger brother, who died three years earlier, when Holden was thirteen. Notice that the sentence, "He's dead now," comes almost as an afterthought to the description of Allie's glove that Holden is writing as Stradlater's composition. By holding back this information, Holden signals us that he still has trouble accepting Allie's death.


Read the long paragraph about Allie very carefully. It's one of the most touching passages in the book because Holden is talking about a rarity in his life-someone he believes was truly good.

The passage about Allie is also important as a clue to why Holden is telling us this story from a hospital bed. Holden is still living with the trauma of his brother's death, a shock that has much to do with his current emotional state.

After the powerful section about Allie, Holden says of the baseball mitt, "I happened to have it with me, in my suitcase," and you recognize that he's once again trying to minimize something. You suspect that Holden probably hasn't gone anywhere without the glove since his brother died, a strong indication that Allie's death was a pivotal event in Holden's life.

It's probably the emotion of having talked and written about Allie that leads Holden to say something friendly at the end of the chapter. After listing everything that's wrong with Ackley, Holden says he feels sorry for this annoying character.

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