The Catcher in the Rye

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Having nothing better to do, Holden keeps Stradlater company as he shaves. Holden notes that Stradlater is a “secret” slob, who is handsome but has personal habits that are nearly as dirty as Ackley’s, though nobody would ever know this unless they roomed with him. As he shaves, he asks Holden to do him a favor by completing his English homework for him. Because he thinks it’s good for people like Stradlater to experience a bit of suspense in their lives, though, Holden doesn’t answer right away, instead asking whom Stradlater is dating. When Stradlater doesn’t immediately tell him, Holden jumps up and puts him in a half-nelson, taking him by surprise and momentarily infuriating him. With ease, Stradlater escapes Holden’s grip and tells him to “cut out the crap.”
Although Holden likes Stradlater, he still recognizes the many ways in which his roommate is a “phony.” For instance, he notices that Stradlater presents himself as clean and handsome even though he’s actually quite messy. That Holden even takes note of this is worth considering, since it’s such a trivial thing to seize upon. After all, the discrepancy between Stradlater’s public image and his personal hygiene is rather unremarkable, since most people have aspects of their personality that they choose not to show the world. To Holden, though, this is a sign of inauthenticity.
Themes
Phoniness Theme Icon
Once again, Holden asks the name of Stradlater’s date, and Stradlater suddenly remembers that the girl he’s about to take out mentioned that she knows Holden. Her name, Stradlater says, is Jean Gallagher. “Jane Gallagher,” Holden says, correcting him. This news thoroughly surprises Holden, since he really does know Jane—in fact, he knows her on a somewhat intimate level, since they spent the majority of the summer hanging out together two years ago. This was when their families summered next door to each other in Maine, and Holden fondly remembers aloud that Jane and he used to play checkers, and he recalls that Jane’s family owned a large pinscher, though Stradlater interrupts him as he tells this story, clearly uninterested.
Although Holden doesn’t usually seem to care about much, he suddenly focuses on his conversation with Stradlater when he discovers that Stradlater is about to go on a date with Jane, a girl from his past. This suggests that Holden is very intrigued by the prospect of establishing a romantic connection with a woman. At the same time, though, what he remembers about Jane is quite innocent and nostalgic. In contrast, Stradlater is on a date with Jane, providing a stark and mature contrast to Holden’s childish memories.
Themes
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
As Stradlater shaves, Holden speaks at length about Jane, remembering that she’s a dancer and that she used to keep all of her kings in the back row when they used to play checkers together. Holden then says that he should go downstairs to say hello to her, but he doesn’t actually make any moves to do so, instead repeating this sentiment periodically as he talks about her. He also recalls that Jane’s parents got divorced and that her stepfather is an alcoholic who walks around the house naked. This captures Stradlater’s attention, since he’s interested in anything that has to do with sex. However, when Holden continues by saying that Jane had a rough childhood, Stradlater tunes out once again.
In this exchange, Holden continues to reminisce about Jane in a rather innocent manner. It’s obvious that he’s interested in her, since he’s so fixated on the memory of the time they spent together. And though this interest is likely romantic, it’s also void of any sexual desire. Stradlater, on the other hand, is only interested in thinking about Jane in a sexual manner. This contrast emphasizes Holden’s unconscious hesitancy to fully enter the adult world, instead investing himself in memories that he thinks of as pure. As he thinks this way, he considers going downstairs to greet Jane, but can’t quite bring himself to do so. This unwillingness to act on his feelings is a trait that will follow him throughout the novel.
Themes
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Once more, Holden says he should go downstairs to say hello to Jane, and Stradlater asks him why he keeps saying that but not doing anything. “I’m not in the mood right now,” Holden says. He then asks Stradlater not to tell Jane that he’s getting kicked out of Pencey.
Even though Holden clearly feels fondly about Jane, he can’t bring himself to actually confront her. This is because he has idealized her in his mind. As a result, actually meeting her would threaten to destroy the perfect version of her that he has built for himself. In this moment, then, it becomes clear that Holden tends to romanticize certain ideas and is unwilling to subject himself to harsh realities.
Themes
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon
Get the entire The Catcher in the Rye LitChart as a printable PDF.
The catcher in the rye.pdf.medium
Holden asks what Stradlater and Jane are going to do, and Stradlater says they might go to New York City if they have time, though he doubts they’ll be able to because Jane only signed out of her dorm until 9:30. The fact that Stradlater says this last part with a touch of annoyance bothers Holden, who senses that Stradlater wants to have sex with Jane. For this reason, he makes fun of Stradlater by sarcastically suggesting that Jane would have signed out for later if only she’d known how charming he was. “Goddam right,” Stradlater says before putting on Holden’s houndstooth jacket, reminding him to do his English homework, and leaving. When he’s gone, Ackley barges in once more. This time, though, Holden is happy to see him, since he feels quite nervous after his conversation with Stradlater.
Holden is nervous because he doesn’t want Stradlater and Jane to have sex. After all, Holden has romantic feelings for Jane, so he doesn’t want his roommate to engage in any romantic activity with her. At the same time, though, Holden’s feelings for Jane aren’t strictly romantic—they also have to do with the way he idealizes childhood. Looking back, he remembers the time he spent with Jane as happy and untroubled, a part of his past for which he feels quite nostalgic. The idea of Stradlater having sex with Jane, then, is especially troubling because it shatters his ability to think about Jane in an innocent way and thus disrupts his idealized childhood memories.
Themes
Women and Sex Theme Icon
Childhood and Growing Up Theme Icon