Holden’s interactions also reveal how lonely he is. He describes Ackley as isolated and ostracized, but it’s easy to see the parallel between Ackley’s and Holden’s situations. Holden notes that he and Ackley are the only two guys not at the football game. Both are isolated, and both maintain a bitter, critical exterior in order to shield themselves from the world that assaults them. In Ackley especially, we can see the cruelty of the situation. Ackley’s isolation is perpetuated by his annoying habits, but his annoying habits protect him from the dangers of interaction and intimacy. Ackley’s situation greatly illuminates Holden’s own inner landscape: intimacy and interaction are what he needs and fears most.
Holden’s new hunting hat, with its funny earflaps, becomes very important to him. Throughout the novel, it serves as a kind of protective device, which Holden uses for more than physical warmth and comfort. When he wears the hat, he always claims not to care what people think about his appearance, which might be a source of self-conscious embarrassment for Holden—he is extremely tall for his age, very thin, and, though he is only sixteen, has a great deal of gray hair. But it is also important to note when Holden does not wear the hat. Part of him seems to want to display his rebelliousness, but another part of him wants to fit in—or, at least, to hide his unique personality. Although he mentions the freezing temperature, Holden does not wear the hat near the football game or at Spencer’s house; he waits for the privacy of his own room to put it on.