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Barron's Booknotes-The Catcher In the Rye by J. D. Salinger-Free Booknotes/Synopsis
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CHAPTER 6

"Some things are hard to remember," Holden says at the beginning of this chapter. By itself, this is a simple enough observation, but as you continue to read you'll find Holden making similar references to his loss of memory. If you keep in mind that he's telling his story from a hospital bed, and if you recall what he did when his brother Allie died and how he felt ("like I was sort of disappearing") when he ran to Mr. Spencer's house in the first chapter, you'll realize that something is not quite right with the way Holden sees himself and deals with the world. You can express what's wrong in a dozen different ways, and they may all be valid. Holden might still be trying to come to terms with Allie' death; he might be experiencing "emotional growing pains"; he might be on the verge of a serious breakdown. When you've finished the book, you can formulate your own statement (or statements) about Holden's problem with the world. For now, just collect all the important pieces of evidence as you find them.

When Stradlater comes back to change his clothes for a date, Holden gives him the composition. Stradlater's insensitive reaction to Holden's paper about Allie' baseball mitt is no great surprise. His teacher had told him to write a description of "a room or a house or something you once lived in," and it would never occur to someone like Stradlater that a description of a glove could also fulfill the assignment.

When he tells Holden, "You don't do one damn thing the way you're supposed to," Stradlater is touching on an important difference between him and his roommate. No matter what he does secretly, Stradlater is a person who follows the rules. ("It drove him crazy when you broke any rules.") He won't miss handing in an assignment, but he will get someone else to write it for him.


Stradlater is a "secret slob" who looks clean; what is true of his razor blade is also true of his behavior. Unlike Stradlater, Holden doesn't put up a front. He doesn't try very hard to please adults, and he's therefore known as someone who doesn't do anything the way he's supposed to.

After working himself into a frenzy over Jane Gallagher, Holden takes a swing at Stradlater, who promptly throws him to the floor and kneels on his chest. Nearly hysterical, Holden "told him he thought he could give the time to anybody he felt like. I told him he didn't even care if a girl kept all her kings in the back row or not."

In Holden's mind Jane Gallagher is so frail and vulnerable that she needs a solid line of kings to make her feel secure. In his mind Stradlater is a phony who uses his wiles to prey on frail and vulnerable girls.

Because he lives with Stradlater, there's a good chance that Holden is right about him. But how reliable is his evaluation of Jane Gallagher? She's a college student, older than he is; he hasn't seen her in two years; and she could very well have changed dramatically since he knew her.

None of this matters to Holden, of course. As far as he's concerned, One of the Helpless is out there, and it's his job to protect her. Or, as you'll find out later in the book, he would like that to be his job.

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