The Catcher in the Rye


J. D. Salinger

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The Catcher in the Rye: Chapter 7 Summary & Analysis

When Holden enters Ackley’s room, he blinds him by turning on the light. Annoyed but too intrigued to stop himself, Ackley asks what happened between him and Stradlater, but Holden evades the question. Rather than answering, he plops down on the bed on the other side of the room, which belongs to Ackley’s roommate who’s out of town for the weekend. He then asks if he can sleep in the room, but Ackley refuses, worrying that his roommate will return—an idea Holden finds ridiculous, since it’s Saturday night and Ackley’s roommate is gone every weekend until Sunday evening. Finally, he gets annoyed at Ackley and leaves.
Holden goes into Ackley’s room because he doesn’t want to be alone, but he soon gets fed up with his neighbor and leaves. This is a perfect representation of his approach to interpersonal relationships: one moment, he thinks that being with somebody will make him feel happier; the next moment, he can’t stand the person he’s with and decides he’d rather go off on his own. This grass-is-greener mentality indicates that he’s always looking for ways to improve his mood, ultimately trying to use people to forget about things he’d rather not think about. In the end, though, he finds this approach ineffective when it comes to dealing with his emotions, though he clearly blames this on others instead of examining his own internal world.
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Lonely and tormented by the suspicion that Stradlater may have had sex with Jane, Holden decides to leave Pencey and go to New York City until his parents learn he’s been expelled. He figures that his parents will receive Dr. Thurmer’s letter about his expulsion on Tuesday or Wednesday. Since he doesn’t want to be around when they first hear the news, he decides to stay away until then. Quietly, he retreats to his room and packs while Stradlater sleeps. He then gathers his things and counts his money before going to a friend’s room and convincing him to buy his typewriter for $20. Just before he leaves, he realizes that he’s crying, but he simply puts on his hunting hat, walks down the hall, turns around, and yells, “Sleep tight, ya morons!”  
Holden’s decision to strike out on his own is yet another example of how he behaves rashly when he’s forced to confront his emotions. He makes the bold decision to leave for New York City because his fight with Stradlater has left him feeling especially estranged from others at Pencey. Of course, he’s only 16, but he sees no problem with his plan of living on his own for a few days. In this way, he postures as an adult even as he continues to idealize the idea of childhood innocence by fixating on whether or not Jane and Stradlater had sex. In turn, readers see that he’s a mess of contradictions, in addition to the fact that he’s more emotional about this departure than he’s willing to admit (as evidenced by his tears). However, none of this stops him from doing what he wants. Before he leaves, he calls his classmates “morons,” once again setting himself in opposition to his peers despite also yearning, on some level, to fit in with them.
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