What causes the fight between Holden and Stradlater in J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye?
In Chapter 4, Stradlater asks Holden to write a composition for him because he hasn't done the reading required to write the paper. Then he discusses his upcoming with Jane, an old friend of Holden's. Holden begins giving information about what Jane was interested in: ballet, checkers, golf, etc. Holden is convinced that Stradlater is not interested in any of this. "Only the sexy stuff interested him." Holden becomes concerned that Stradlater is only going out with Jane to take advantage of her. Holden is being thoughtful but he's also being judgmental, thinking that Jane can't take care of herself.
Stradlater returns and reads the composition Holden has written for him. Stradlater criticizes it and Holden tears it up. Since Stradlater left for his date with Jane, Holden had been building up his anxiety and distrust toward Stradlater. The fact that Stradlater was less than appreciative of Holden's work made Holden even more angry. Stradlater playfully punches Holden in the shoulder. Holden continues to press him about what happened on the date. Holden asks Stradlater if he "gave her the time" and Stradlater replies that this is a "professional secret." By this time, Holden, feeling like Jane's protector, generally unhappy with Stradlater's attitude, and frustrated in general at being kicked out of school, finally snaps:
This next part I don't remember so hot. All I know is I got up from the bed, like I was going down to the can or something, and then I tried to sock him, with all my might, right smack in the toothbrush, so it would split his goddam throat open. Only, I missed. I didn't connect. All I did was sort of get him on the side of the head or something.