Last time, we learned Holden got kicked out of Pencey Prep, his posh boarding school, that he’s kind of ageist, and super emo, but also sometimes surprisingly wise and all.
After quitting “old Spencer” with a phony excuse, Holden heads back to his dorm room. On the way there, he reminisces fondly about the time one of his peers laid a “terrific fart” during chapel. I wonder what makes a fart so “terrific”—is it the noise or the smell? Wow, this book is deeply philosophical.
And then, ladies and gentlemen, when Holden gets back to his room, THE HUNTING CAP, which he bought in NYC that morning, makes its FIRST APPEARANCE. Holden, like the young fashionista he is, pushing the boundaries of style, puts the hat on backwards. “Very corny, I’ll admit,” he says, “but I liked it that way. I looked good in that way.” It reminds me of the first time I put a cardigan on backwards and wore it as a shirt. I feel proud of him.
Afterward, Holden reads Out of Africa—which makes me wonder if this whole book is secretly about colonialism, will revisit in a few chapters—or he says he’s reading but he seems mostly to be thinking mostly about his favorite authors. Just when he’s finished kind of dissing Somerset Maugham (“He just isn’t the kind of guy I’d want to call up”), in walks Robert Ackley, whom Holden describes as basically the least attractive, least popular guy in school.
The scenario that unfolds next is probably familiar to most of you: Ackley wants to hang out. Holden is trying to read. Ackley won’t stop asking questions, so Holden finally gives up on his book, and decides to start horsing around. Holden pulls his cap over his eyes, begins groping the air in front of him, and pretending to be blind, while addressing Ackley/the air as “Mother darling.” From this, I conclude that Holden and Woody Allen might find a shared interest in Freudian analysis.
After a while, Ackley asks Holden for his nail scissors and Holden gets them for him—remember, this is the least attractive, least popular guy in school who’s just interrupted Holden’s reading—even though his suitcase is already packed and on the highest shelf in his closet. Hold up—is Holden a nice guy?!?! I was *not* expecting this.
By way of gratitude, Ackley begins cutting his fingernails over Holden’s floor, while talking about how much he hates Holden’s roommate, Stradlater. Ackley seems so viciously focused on his hatred of Stradlater I wonder if he has a secret crush on him. It’s possible—after all, even Holden admits Strad is “pretty handsome” and has a “damn good build.” Right on cue, Stradlater waltzes in, asking to borrow Holden’s houndstooth jacket for his date tonight. Holden lets him (more evidence of niceness!) and then joins Stradlater in the bathroom while he shaves.
Stradlater, whom Holden had been defending from Ackley, immediately proves himself to be kind of a dick. Not only is he trying to convince Holden to write a paper for him, he says, of a girl he once dated, “I’m through with that pig.” Approximately two seconds later, Holden has him in a half Nelson—”a wrestling hold, in case you don’t know, where you get the other guy around the neck and choke him to death, if you feel like it.” Meet Holden Caulfield, feminist avenger.
It turns out Stradlater’s getting ready for a date with THE JANE GALLAGHER—you know, Jane Gallagher? Yeah, name didn’t do anything for me either, but it’s got Holden like wha? because he knows Jane Gallagher. They were neighbors a couple summers ago and used to play checkers together all the time and Jane was I guess really bad at checkers because she wouldn’t play her kings—she’d just line them all up in the back row. Obviously, that‘s totally meaningless.
Anyway, I’m wondering what Strad is thinking rn, because Holden is very clearly in love with Jane Gallagher. He babbles on and on about her until Strad leaves and continues thinking about her after he leaves. He’s worried about Jane as Strad is a “sexy bastard.” Oh jeez. I’m wondering how that translates into 21st century American English and, in the meantime, worrying about Jane, too.
In the end, Ackley comes back into the room and Holden’s so glad to have distraction from his ~love~ that he’s actually glad to see him and they hang out for a while EVEN THOUGH Ackley spends the whole time trying to pop a ginormous pimple on his chin.
And now for the Catcher‘s Index:
What I’m calling my “best friend” from now on: buddyroo
# of times Holden nearly got killed/dropped dead (figure-of-speech-style): 4
Example I’m going to use to explain irony to my next round of students: “I’m the one that’s flunking out of the goddam place, and you’re asking me to write you a goddam composition.” – Holden to Stradlater
“Goddam” count: 32
Average goddams per page: 1.6
Most goddams on a page: 5
Best alternative spelling: cosy
Most obvious internal rhyme.: by mistake, for God’s sake
Homophone usage that makes me swoon: “Then I started horsing around a little bit…I said in this very hoarse voice.”
Italics that made me most jealous: attitude and sentence
If you’re following along at home, this post covers chapters 3 and 4. Catch up here!