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The Catcher in the Rye

by J. D. Salinger

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In The Catcher in the Rye, which minor characters represent themes of failure, phoniness, alienation, or the pain of growing up?

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One minor character who definitely can be used to highlight some of the themes mentioned above is Stradlater, who is so desperate to come across as being popular with the ladies. This is something that infuriates Holden, in particular because the girl that Stradlater is supposed to be dating is Jane, a girl that it becomes clear Holden actually cares for himself. Holden desperately tries to find out from Stradlater what happened on their date and how far he got, and is absolutely enraged when Stradlater refuses to respond. However, at the very end of Chapter 7 Holden gives us a detail that may suggest to the reader that Stradlater has actually made up his story about the date. Note what he says as he leaves the school:

Some stupid guy had thrown peanut shells all over the stairs, and I damn near broke my neck.

This is a very strange detail that Salinger includes, and it seemingly is inconsequential unless it is used as proof to indicate that Stradlater did not have a date at all, but just pretended to, and stood on the stairs, eating peanuts whilst he was supposed to be on his "date." This of course reveals why he was so reluctant to talk about what happened on his date. Stradlater is revealed as an awkward young man who tries to pretend he is something that he is not, and is a phony character as a result.

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