The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

Analysis of Chunk 3 (Chapters 5 - 7)

This is the first time we see Holden sentimental, and in this state, he reveals many things. A particularly telling instance is when Holden makes a snowball but is unable to throw it at anything: "I started to throw it. At a car that was parked across the street. But I changed my mind. The car looked so nice and white. Then I started to throw it at a hydrant, but that looked too nice and white, too. Finally I didn't throw it at anything. All I did was close the window and walk around the room with the snowball, packing it harder." The act of packing the snowball harder indicates a frustration within Holden, which continues to accumulate with no avenue of discharge.

Holden's inability to desecrate the pure snow is mirrored in his protectiveness of his younger brother's memory. When describing Allie, he mentions that "you'd have liked him," again referring to the undefined second-person pronoun in an effort to distance himself from his own sentimentality. However, Holden's mood has changed at this point, as can be seen by his attitude to Ackley: "I felt a little sorry for that crazy sonuvabitch," he pronounces. Thus, when Stradlater rejects the essay Holden writes on Allie's glove, Holden tears up the essay because he can't bear Stradlater to tarnish the memory of his brother.

The fight with Stradlater ensues as a direct result of Holden's current state of mind. Holden becomes sentimental because he recalls his brother's innocence, and he links this innocence to the memories he has of Jane, as a girl who left her kings in the back row of checkers simply because she liked the way they looked that way. This is why he is so eager to discover whether or not Stradlater had sex with Jane, and also the reason he is so angered by the thought.

Stradlater, it is important to note, is not at all responsible for the fight. The reader is led to doubt Holden's stability, while sympathizing with Stradlater, who is concerned about Holden after seeing the blood on his face. Similarly, in the subsequent episode with Ackley, we notice that Holden's treatment of Ackley here mirror's Ackley's earlier treatment of Holden. Just as Ackley lacked manners in Holden's room, Holden takes time before complying with Ackley's dictates, disobeys Ackley (sleeps on his roommate's bed while his face is all bloody), and even wakes Ackley up with irrelevant questions. Holden's lies regarding the origin of his fight with Stradlater also do not raise him up in the reader's esteem.

The most prevalent feeling at this point is loneliness. When packing, Holden notes that "Almost every time somebody gives me a present, it ends up making me sad." The reason for this is that Holden always ends up betraying the giver of the gift in some fashion, thus alienating that person. Holden clearly lacks something in his life, and he does not know what it is.

The last proclamation, "Sleep tight, ya morons!" is a seal of his estrangement from society. In essence, he sees nearly everyone as a moron except for himself. It is important to note that the only two characters Holden has refused to pass judgment on are his little sister Allie and the memory of a pre-adolescent Jane Gallagher, for reasons which will become apparent later.

Contents