Holden has a complicated relationship with girls and women that threads throughout the novel. There are the girls he wants to protect, such as Jane Gallagher , a family friend with whom he enjoys playing checkers. She falls into the category of girls like his little sister, Phoebe, who need...
Holden has a complicated relationship with girls and women that threads throughout the novel. There are the girls he wants to protect, such as Jane Gallagher, a family friend with whom he enjoys playing checkers. She falls into the category of girls like his little sister, Phoebe, who need to be guarded from the world's predators. Therefore, when Holden finds out his roommate, Stradlater, a smooth talker who seduces girls, is taking Jane on a date, Holden becomes agitated:
I kept thinking about Jane, and about Stradlater having a date with her and all. It made me so nervous I nearly went crazy.
By the time Stradlater comes back, Holden is so upset he gets into a fist fight with him, which leads to him leaving Pencey in the middle of the night for New York City.
However, Holden also longs for a girl as a romantic partner he can share his life with. Even though he thinks she is an insufferable phony, he invites Sally Hayes on a date in Manhattan. His conflicted thinking comes out when he sees her:
Finally, old Sally started coming up the stairs, and I started down to meet her. She looked terrific. She really did. She had on this black coat and sort of a black beret. She hardly ever wore a hat, but that beret looked nice. The funny part is, I felt like marrying her the minute I saw her. I'm crazy. I didn't even like her much, and yet all of a sudden I felt like I was in love with her and wanted to marry her.
Holden, who is a virgin, also thinks of girls as sex objects and would like to experience sex, but when he hires a prostitute he is too kindhearted to sleep with her, so they talk instead.
Holden is kind to the nuns he meets while having breakfast in a diner, giving them ten dollars—the equivalent of about a hundred in today's money. They fall into his protected category of "pure" women.
While Holden has imbibed some of his society's sexism, his general sense of empathy causes him to treat even women who might be generally thought of as less "pure" with kindness—and to long for companionship even with a girl like Sally, whom he half despises.