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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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Chapters 4–7 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated June 26, 2023.

Chapter 4

Holden decides to join Stradlater in the bathroom while he shaves. Holden explains that Stradlater is a "Year Book kind of handsome guy" who is a "secret slob."

Stradlater asks Holden to write an English composition for him. Holden keeps him in suspense and, out of boredom, begins imitating a tap dancer from a movie. When pressed, he tells Stradlater he'll only do the composition if he gets the time.

During their conversation, Holden holds Stradlater in a half-nelson wrestling move, annoying him while he shaves. Holden finds out that Stradlater's date is Jane Gallagher, a girl Holden got to know the summer before last when they were neighbors. Holden asks Stradlater questions about her, and Holden shares how they used to play checkers together and how she "had a lousy childhood."

Holden can't get Jane off his mind. He wants to say hello to her but is not in the mood to do it. He asks Stradlater to give her his regards and to refrain from telling her that Holden's been kicked out of Pencey. Stradlater leaves for his date wearing Holden's hounds’-tooth jacket.

Holden is very nervous about Jane's date with "a sexy bastard" like Stradlater. When Ackley returns to his room, he's happy to get his mind off it.

Chapter 5

After dinner, Holden enjoys "horsing around" with some classmates in the freshly fallen snow. Holden, Ackley, and Holden's friend Mal Brossard decide to take a bus into town to get hamburgers and see a movie. They don't end up seeing a movie and return to the dorm before nine. After they spend some time in the room together, Holden tells Ackley to leave so that he can write Stradlater's composition.

For the composition, Holden writes about his brother Allie's baseball mitt. Allie, Holden's younger brother, died when Holden was thirteen. Holden recalls how Allie was "terrifically intelligent," how his teachers loved him, and how he laughed at the dinner table. The night Allie died, Holden slept in the garage and broke all the garage windows with his fist.

After writing the composition, Holden looks out the window and listens to Ackley snoring.

Chapter 6

Holden worries about Stradlater's date with Jane. Stradlater comes back to the dorm. When Stradlater sees the composition Holden has written, he becomes angry and says that Holden has done it "backasswards." Holden takes the composition back and rips it up.

Holden nervously asks Stradlater about his date with Jane. Stradlater tells Holden that they didn't go anywhere; they just sat in the car he borrowed from the basketball coach.

When Stradlater doesn't tell Holden if he "gave her the time" in the car, Holden hits him, and Stradlater pins him to the floor. Holden keeps yelling at Stradlater and calling him names until Stradlater punches him. When Stradlater leaves the room, Holden finds his hunting hat and, with a bloody face, goes next door to Ackley's room.

Chapter 7

When Holden goes to Ackley's room, Ackley is irritated, saying he has been trying to sleep as he plans to go to Mass the following day. Holden asks if he can sleep in Ackley's roommate's bed; Ackley gives a vague answer, which annoys Holden.

Holden feels "so lonesome" as he talks with Ackley. Ackley falls back asleep, and Holden can't stop thinking about Stradlater's date with Jane, remembering a double date he had taken with Stradlater once.

Holden wakes Ackley again and leaves the room shortly after. He decides to leave Pencey and spend a few days in...

(This entire section contains 1082 words.)

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a hotel in New York to give his parents time to "digest" the news of his expulsion.

Holden packs quickly, momentarily saddened as he packs the new ice skates his mother had bought him. He counts his money and sells his typewriter to a classmate. Holden cries as he takes a long last look down the corridor. He adjusts his hunting hat, yells, "Sleep tight, ya morons!" and leaves.

Analysis 

In these chapters, Holden's character is further developed for readers. Although Holden criticizes Ackley for "hating everyone," Holden generally disdains his classmates: he sees Stradlater as vain, Ackley as stupid, and, before he leaves, he calls the entire floor "morons." 

Despite this, he repeatedly does useful deeds for others. He allows Stradlater to borrow his hound's-tooth coat for his date, writes a composition assignment for Stradlater, and works on an inferior typewriter because he has loaned his typewriter to someone else. Most of these things are done begrudgingly, and stronger peers like Stradlater coerce Holden.

Holden reveals more about his mental state through his own words and actions. He admits that he is very nervous, which is evident when he worries about Stradlater's date with Jane. Even though Holden is eager to talk to Jane before their date, he doesn't say hello to her. He claims he is "not in the mood," but this may be a way to deny his nervousness.

When Holden shares his personal history and the loss of his beloved brother Allie, he says that his parents would have him "psychoanalyzed" after he broke all of the windows in the garage "just for the hell of it." These details add to readers' understanding of Holden's mental health and his brother's death's impact on him. Holden's memories of his brother Allie are detailed and suggest the depth of his grief.

In the middle of his conversation with Ackley, after fighting Stradlater, Holden is overcome by a deep loneliness. He notes that "I felt so lonesome, all of a sudden. I almost wished I was dead… I felt so damn lonesome." This theme of loneliness—and the ensuing pull of death—is developed throughout the novel. Even though Holden is with Ackley, he is isolated; he does not share this sense of despair with his friend.

Although grief and loneliness are evident in these chapters, Holden seems unable to admit them. When he prepares to leave Pencey, taking a final look down the corridor, Holden awkwardly states, "I was crying. I don't know why." He quickly covers this expression of sadness by yelling an angry goodbye.

The theme of sexuality and relationships is also developed. Holden sees Jane as a whole person and is interested in details about her. In contrast, Stradlater is known for pursuing girls for sex, not friendship, and is uninterested in details about Jane. Holden is bothered by memories of double-dating with Stradlater, disgusted by Stradlater's "technique" of using a sincere voice and ignoring his date's protests of his physical advances.

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Chapters 1–3 Summary and Analysis

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Chapters 8–11 Summary and Analysis