What does Holden's fight with Stradlater in The Catcher in the Rye say about Holden's character as a person?

Holden's fight with Stradlater tells us that Holden's character is impulsive, prone to jealousy, and moody.

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In chapter six, Stradlater takes Jane, for whom Holden has a soft spot, out on a date. The whole time they are out, Holden gets himself more and more worked up, thinking that Stradlater would take advantage of Jane. To add insult to injury, when Stradlater gets back, he tells Holden that he didn't like the essay which Holden had written for him.

To make matters worse, Stradlater gets evasive when Holden tries to ask him how the evening went, adding to Holden's impression that something untoward had happened between Stradlater and Jane. At this point, all hell breaks loose in Holden's mind, and he hits Stradlater.

If I had to pick two words from this scene to describe Holden's character, they would be impulsive and jealous. The fact that Stradlater and Jane are out having a good time has clearly gotten under Holden's skin, and the fact that he had a history with Jane doubtless played a part in this. However, he had no right to allow his jealousy to cloud his responses to Stradlater.

Holden shows off his impulsiveness in a negative way when he starts a fight with Stradlater, simultaneously taking a swing at him and verbally assaulting him. This was a complete overreaction to assumptions that he was making about Jane and Stradlater's date.

As the old saying goes, jealously makes you nasty, and it is apparent that Holden did not approve of Jane—for whom he clearly has some residual feelings—spending time with Stradlater.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 27, 2020
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In chapter 6, Holden's roommate Stradlater comes back from his date with Jane Gallagher, a girl Holden genuinely cares about and has a history with, and Holden cannot stop thinking about how Stradlater probably gave "her the time in Ed Banky’s goddam car." Holden incessantly asks Stradlater numerous questions about their date and Stradlater clearly does not want to elaborate on his time with Jane Gallagher. Holden then experiences a mixture of emotions, including jealousy, anxiety, and anger. Holden cares about Jane and has a difficult time picturing Stradlater hooking up with her on their date. Seemingly out of nowhere, Holden takes a swing at Stradlater that glances off the side of his head. Stradlater then slams Holden to the ground and ends up pinning him down with his knees on Holden's chest. Holden continues insulting Stradlater, who ends the fight by punching him in the face. Overall, Holden's overreaction to Stradlater's date with Jane Gallagher portrays him as an unhinged, passionate adolescent, who has a difficult time appropriately expressing his emotions.

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The episode illustrates just how alienated Holden is from society. Stradlater's "crime" in Holden's eyes is being a fully paid-up member of that society, with all the "phoniness" that entails. There's a twinge of jealousy here, expressive of a general immaturity on Holden's part. Stradlater's insinuations over what he got up to with Jane Gallagher make Holden feel kind of left out. Holden's reaction is way over the top; his repeatedly calling Stradlater a moron tells us more about Holden than it does about his sworn enemy.

Holden knows full well how different he is from everyone else, how distant and apart he is from a society he neither cares for nor understands. But he doesn't like to be reminded of that fact—to have someone rub it in, as it were—especially not by a grade-A phony like Stradlater.

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In the novel "Catcher In The Rye" by J D Salinger, the author shows the intense dislike that Holden Caulfield shows towards fellow school mate Stradlater. Holden seems to be of the opinion that Stradlater is a "phony" - now he thinks he is a "moron" as well.

Caulfield seems to think that Stradlater (and all the other rich boys except himself) are part of a fake establishment structure which he wants no part of. He thinks that in reality Stradlater is a "secret slob." He feels superior. He has the typical adolescent difficulty in expressing himself,only worse. S when he finds out about Stradlater's episode with "his" girl, he cannot get his feelings out quick enough which results in a fight. He has to resort to repetition, calling Stradlater the same name repeatedly. This demonstrates Holden's arrogance/insecurity.

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This fight happens in Chapter 6.  It is caused by the fact that Stradlater is implying that he had sex with Jane Gallagher, or at least went and made out with her in the coach's car.  The fight tells us a couple of things, in my opinion.

First, it tells us that Holden has this old fashioned view of women.  He thinks that it is his place to try to fight someone who has been making out with a girl he likes.  He is either being chivalrous (nice interpretation) or very possessive -- implying she belongs to him.

Second, it tells us that Holden is really immature.  He keeps calling Stradlater a moron.  He says Stradlater is a moron because he doesn't want to discuss things.  But it's not clear why Stradlater should talk about what exactly he did in the car with Jane.  At any rate, Holden just keeps calling him a moron over and over, which seems pretty immature to me.

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