Holden spends the next several hours fretting about what’s happening between Stradlater and Jane on their date. This is largely because he knows Stradlater is so sexually advanced, having gone on multiple double dates with him and witnessed his determination to have sex. When he finally comes back to the dorm, though, Stradlater focuses not on what happened between him and Jane, but on the composition Holden wrote about Allie’s baseball mitt. Realizing that Holden didn’t write about a house, room, or place, he angrily tells him that it’s no wonder he’s getting expelled, since he doesn’t do anything “the way you’re supposed to.” Hearing this, Holden snatches back the assignment and rips it to shreds, at which point he starts smoking a cigarette just to annoy Stradlater, who dislikes it when Holden smokes inside.
What’s perhaps most tragic about this interaction is that Holden genuinely tried to do Stradlater a favor by writing his English composition. In fact, Stradlater emphasized that the piece simply needed to be descriptive, so it’s unfair of him to get mad at Holden for writing a vivid description of Allie’s mitt. Of course, what makes this situation even worse is that Holden has tried to express something in his writing that he rarely gets a chance to talk about. When Stradlater gets angry at him, then, he becomes overly defensive and acts out. Once again, then, Holden responds harshly to confrontation, this time struggling not only with yet another person trying to tell him to follow the rules, but with the idea that Stradlater has threatened his innocent and nostalgic memories of Jane and Allie
Puffing away on his cigarette, Holden asks Stradlater what happened on his date with Jane, but Stradlater refuses to say. Nonetheless, Holden continues to pressure him into giving him details about the night, learning that they didn’t go to New York because Jane had to be back by 9:30. This makes Holden even more curious, since he wants to know what they did all night if they didn’t go to the city. Finally, Stradlater explains that they sat in a car that he borrowed from one of Pencey’s basketball coaches. This annoys Holden, who notes that athletes always “stick together,” though he acknowledges that he, too, has gone on a double date with Stradlater in this very same car.
If Holden truly wanted to preserve his innocent image of Jane, he would stop asking Stradlater what happened on their date. Nonetheless, he continues to badger his roommate, thereby subjecting himself to the possibility that they may have had sex. In this way, he simultaneously tries to protect his idealized memory of Jane while also acknowledging that she’s older now and capable of doing things that would ruin his childish conception of her. As a result, Holden teeters between naïveté and the adult world, stuck between immaturity and maturity.
Unable to resist, Holden asks Stradlater if he and Jane had sex. This offends Stradlater, who refuses to answer. Consequently, Holden tries to punch him, but Stradlater wrestles him to the ground and puts his knees on his chest. Pinned, Holden continues to insult Stradlater, accusing him of thinking he can have sex with anyone he wants. When he calls him a moron, Stradlater warns him to be quiet, but he only repeats the insult until Stradlater punches him in the nose. Just before leaving the room, he tells Holden to wash his face, clearly worried that he seriously injured him, though Holden simply calls him a moron once again.
Holden hates the idea that anything sexual might have happened between Stradlater and Jane, but he can’t stop himself from thinking about this possibility. Consequently, he subjects himself to an idea that greatly upsets him, and when Stradlater refuses to answer him, he finds himself unable to take the suspense, which is why he attacks him. Once more, then, he lashes out because of his own inability to process his emotions. Furthermore, his refusal to stop calling Stradlater a moron underlines his petulant, childish nature while also spotlighting his stubbornness—Holden, it seems, is somebody who will continue to do what he wants even when it’s in his best interest to stop.
After Stradlater leaves, Holden puts on his red hunting hat and looks at his face in the mirror, thinking that the blood on his face makes him look tough, though he thinks of himself as a “pacifist.” He then decides to go into Ackley’s room because he’s certain that the commotion must have woken him up, and he doesn’t feel like being alone.
Holden uses his new hunting hat as a way of setting himself apart from his surroundings, since it’s such a unique hat that most people wouldn’t wear on an everyday basis. It makes sense, then, that he would put it on in the aftermath of his fight with Stradlater, since he wants to reassure himself that he’s nothing like his roommate, whom he suddenly sees as a heartless womanizer. And yet, despite his desire to set himself apart, he also doesn’t want to be alone, which is why he seeks out Ackley. This suggests that he doesn’t fully want to alienate himself from his surroundings, only from the aspects that he deems as a threat to his own innocence and authenticity.