Chap 1-2: Analysis (sparknotes)
From the beginning of the novel, Holden tells his story in a bitterly cynical voice. He refuses to discuss his early life, he says, because he is bored by “all that David Copperfield kind of crap.” He gives us a hint that something catastrophic has happened in his life, acknowledging that he writes from a rest home to tell about “this madman stuff” that happened to him around the previous Christmas, but he doesn’t yet go into specifics. The particularities of his story are in keeping with his cynicism and his boredom. He has failed out of school, and he leaves Spencer’s house abruptly because he does not enjoy being confronted by his actions.
Chap 3-4: Analysis (sparknotes):
Holden despises “phonies”—people whose surface behavior distorts or disguises their inner feelings. Even his brother D. B. incurs his displeasure by accepting a big paycheck to write for the movies; Holden considers the movies to be the phoniest of the phony and emphasizes throughout the book the loathing he has for Hollywood. Unfortunately, Holden is surrounded by phonies in his circa- prep school. Preening Ackley and self-absorbed Stradlater act as his immediate contrasts. But, despite their flaws, he acts with basic kindness toward them, agreeing to write Stradlater’s English composition for him in Chapter 4, even though Stradlater is out with Jane Gallagher, a girl Holden seems to care for very deeply. The pressure of adolescent sexuality—an important theme throughout The Catcher in the Rye—makes itself felt here for the first time: Holden’s greatest worry is that Stradlater will make sexual advances toward Jane. 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. 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.
-Holden talks a lot about phoniness, like the phoniness of the steak they eat at Pencey on Sunday. -Go to see a movie in Agerstown with Ackley and Brossard because he feels bad for Ackley. -“I told you … people never believe you.” Holden Caulfield (page 37) -His brother Allie died a while ago from leukemia. Holden admired him even though he was 2 years younger. (pages 38-39 for more)
-Thinks people are morons if they never want to discuss anything -Provokes Stradlater
-Holden gets punched and stuff and likes the look of blood on his face because he feels tougher. He was “partly scared and partly fascinated.”
Holden talks for a while with Ackley and then tries to fall asleep in the bed belonging to Ackley’s roommate, who is away for the weekend. But he cannot stop imagining Jane fooling around with Stradlater, and he has trouble falling asleep. He wakes Ackley and talks with him some more, asking whether he could run off and join a monastery without being Catholic. Ackley is annoyed by the conversation, and Holden is annoyed by Ackley’s “phoniness,” so he leaves. Outside, in the dorm’s hallway, he decides that he will leave for New York that night instead of waiting until Wednesday. After passing a...
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