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Free Study Guide-The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger-Free BookNotes
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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 Stradlaterís 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 Holdenís 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.

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