In J. D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the passage discusses Holden’s actions regarding a roommate at Elkton Hills, Dick Slagle. Slagle had inexpensive suitcases, while Holden’s were from a very expensive and well known store, Mark Cross.
The passage contributes to the development of the novel's themes of the false images that people often project and of hypocrisy and Holden’s disdain for it. In this passage, the suitcases are a metaphor for the difference in their overall lifestyles. Holden does not want to make Slagle feel bad about the differences in their suitcases. Thus, Holden places his suitcases under his bed to hide them so that Slagle will not see them and have a daily reminder of the differences in their lifestyles.
However, Slagle’s response to Holden hiding the suitcases is unexpected. Slagle “took them out and put them back on the rack.” Holden thinks about this and concludes that
The reason he did it... was because he wanted people to think my bags were his. He really did.
The theme of Slagle’s hypocrisy is clear when Holden explains that
He was always saying snotty things about them, my suitcases, for instance. He kept saying they were too new and bourgeois.
Holden says that after the two boys requested a change of roommate, he missed Slagle and “wouldn't be surprised if he missed me, too.” This shows that human nature is often precarious and unpredictable. Frequently, people’s emotions and feelings are unexpectedly not what one would expect them to be. Holden continuously says in the novel that he does not understand how someone could have said one thing but then seemingly done another. The end to this passage furthers that theme of Holden’s frequent confusion about human nature.