[Stradlater] thought he was the handsomest guy in the Western Hemisphere. He was pretty handsome, too—I’ll admit it. But he was mostly the kind of handsome guy that if your parents saw his picture in your Year Book, they’d right away say, “Who’s this boy?” I mean he was mostly a Year Book kind of handsome guy. I knew a lot of guys at Pencey I thought were handsomer than Stradlater, but they wouldn’t look handsome if you saw their pictures in the Year Book.
Holden gives this description of Stradlater in Chapter 4. Stradlater’s physical attractiveness comes up many times in the book’s early chapters, and this rambling passage exemplifies Holden’s borderline obsession with his roommate’s physique. First, Stradlater is an object of jealousy. Despite explicitly saying otherwise, Holden wishes he had his roommate’s looks and charm. Second, Stradlater is possibly an object of desire. Holden’s overt fear of homosexuality may be linked to a latent homosexual desire, and the constant commentary about Stradlater’s body may indicate just such a desire.
Stradlater wasn’t hardly listening. He was combing his gorgeous locks.
Holden makes this observation in Chapter 4, when Stradlater is getting ready for his date with Jane Gallagher. Although Holden may have an unspoken attraction to Stradlater, his use of the phrase “gorgeous locks” is chiefly ironic in this context. Holden has followed Stradlater into the bathroom and has been attempting to get his attention, both by tap dancing and by trying to start a wrestling match. But Stradlater rebuffs Holden and goes on with his preparations. In this quote, then, Holden criticizes Stradlater for being emotionally distant and overly preoccupied with his appearance.
What a technique that guy had. What he’d do was, he’d start snowing his date in this very quiet, sincere voice—like as if he wasn’t only a very handsome guy but a nice, sincere guy, too. I damn near puked, listening to him. His date kept saying, “No—please. Please, don’t. Please.” But old Stradlater kept snowing her in this Abraham Lincoln, sincere voice, and finally there’d be this terrific silence in the back of the car.
In Chapter 7 Holden comments on Stradlater’s strategy for seducing his dates. On the surface, Holden expresses contempt for Stradlater’s phony sincerity, and for his failure to back off when his date tells him “No.” Despite his outward contempt, however, Holden also appears to have some respect for Stradlater’s strategy. When Holden says, “What a technique that guy had,” he is only being partly ironic. It is possible that Holden feels jealous of Stradlater’s sexual maturity. Whereas his roommate pursues his sexual desires with confidence, Holden remains confused and full of trepidation.