In J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, what is it that Jane Gallagher does at the movies that Holden Caulfield likes?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In J.D. Salinger's novel, Catcher in the Rye, Jane Gallagher represents someone who he cares for, who allows him to be comfortable with himself, especially in her company; this is something Holden struggles with throughout the book: being positive with others and feeling comfortable in the company of other people.

Holden genuinely cares for Jane, recalling an afternoon when they were playing checkers and her stepfather arrived on the scene. It is very upsetting to Jane, though she will not explain why. However, Holden is very concerned and tries to comfort her as she cries.

Holden even finds the way Jane holds hands noteworthy. While other girls fidget, as if they are worrying that they won't be able to hold hands "correctly," Jane is comfortable with doing it, and Holden perhaps is more comfortable about himself because she once again makes it so easy for him to be who he is, without criticizing him.

Most girls, if you hold hands with them, their goddam hand DIES on you, or else they think they have to keep MOVING their hand all the time, as if they were afraid they’d bore you or something. Jane was different. We’d get into a goddam movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we wouldn’t quit till the movie was over. And without changing position or making a big deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were.

However, there is one thing that Jane does one time at the movie that just about "knocks [Holden] out:" she casually put her hand on the back of his neck. It is unexpected and shocking, but "so pretty" that it just about "kills" him.

One time, in this movie, Jane did something that just a out knocked me out. The newsreel was on or something, and all of a sudden I felt this hand on the back of my neck, and it was Jane's. It was a funny thing to do. I mean she was quite young and all, and most girls if you see them putting their hand on the back of somebody's neck, they're around twenty-five or thirty and usually they're doing it to their husband or their little kid—I do it to my kid sister...But if a girl's quite young and all and she does it, it's so pretty it just about kills you.

Holden is terribly lonely. He is critical of others and extremely cynical. He is struggling to find where he fits in the world and doesn't have a great deal of patience with the world. He does, however, have special feelings and fond memories of Jane, though one wonders why he does not call her during the story, when she probably could have made him feel better, as she did before.

Read the study guide:
The Catcher in the Rye

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