What Point Does Holden Try To Make About The Commas

What point is Holden making when he talks about Stradlater and the "commas" and Ackley's description of the basketball player?

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gpane | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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The point that Holden is making here is that people like his room-mate Stradlater and Ackley are unable, or unwilling, to appreciate other people’s talents. This issue first comes up when Stradlater asks Holden to write his English composition for him as Holden is good at English. However, Stradlater implies that the only reason Holden is good at English is because he has a sound grasp of grammar – that he knows where to put commas, and so on. Holden is extremely annoyed that Stradlater doesn’t seem to recognize that there is far more to writing a good composition than just attending to punctuation.

Robert Ackley shows a similar inability to appreciate another boy’s sporting abilities. Holden recalls how he and Ackley once watched a basketball game featuring an outstanding player named Howie Coyle. However, instead of praising him, all Ackley says is that Coyle ‘has the perfect build for basketball’, as if his physique alone accounts for his prowess. This also vexes Holden: ‘God, how I hate that stuff,’ he remarks. Holden thinks that Ackley and Stradlater are mean-spirited towards others and he is disgusted with their attitude. Holden appears to feel this way about many people, not realizing that his own attitude to others often leaves something to be desired. 

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