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The thing was, I couldn't think of a room or a house or anything to describe the way Stradlater said he had to have. I'm not too crazy about describing rooms and houses anyway. So what I did, I wrote about my brother Allie's baseball mitt. It was a very descriptive subject. It really was. My brother Allie had this left-handed fielder's mitt. He was left-handed. The thing that was descriptive about it, though, was that he had poems written all over the fingers and the pocket and everywhere. In green ink. He wrote them on it so that he'd have something to read when he was in the field and nobody was up at bat. He's dead now. He got leukemia and died when we were up in Maine, on July 18, 1946. You'd have liked him. He was two years younger than I was, but he was about fifty times as intelligent. He was terrifically intelligent. His teachers were always writing letters to my mother, telling her what a pleasure it was having a boy like Allie in their class. And they weren't just shooting the crap. They really meant it. But it wasn't just that he was the most intelligent member in the family. He was also the nicest, in lots of ways. He never got mad at anybody. […] God, he was a nice kid, though. He used to laugh so hard at something he thought of at the dinner table that he just about fell off his chair. (5.7)
Holden will later tell us that he likes digressions, since you don't know what the important stuff is that you have to talk about until you just start going. That's what this English composition ends up being for him. He needs to talk about Allie (obviously a huge part of his life), so that's what comes out when he sits down to write. The fact that it just sort of happens, unintentionally, is a big tip-off that Allie is important element when discussing Holden and The Catcher in the Rye.
I was only thirteen, and they were going to have me psychoanalyzed and all, because I broke all the windows in the garage. I don't blame them. I really don't. I slept in the garage the night he died, and I broke all the goddam windows with my fist, just for the hell of it. I even tried to break all the windows on the station wagon we had that summer, but my hand was already broken and everything by that time, and I couldn't do it. It was a very stupid thing to do, I'll admit, but I hardly didn't even know I was doing it, and you didn't know Allie. My hand still hurts me once in a while when it rains and all, and I can't make a real fist any more – not a tight one, I mean – but outside of that I don't care much. I mean I'm not going to be a goddam surgeon or a violinist or anything anyway. (5.7)
Holden has had more than one brush with death, and the death of his brother is clearly the most powerful. Notice that his reaction is categorized as anger – not sadness or depression or confusion. Compare this to the other important moments when Holden gets really angry – not sad, but angry (e.g., when he's talking to Sally, when he punches Stradlater). Do these instances have any one thing in common?
I didn't want to start an argument. "Okay," I said. Then I thought of something, all of a sudden. "Hey, listen," I said. "You know those ducks in that lagoon right near Central Park South? That little lake? By any chance, do you happen to know where they go, the ducks, when it gets all frozen over? Do you happen to know, by any chance?" I realized it was only one chance in a million.
He turned around and looked at me like I was a madman. "What're ya tryna do, bud?" he said. "Kid me?"
"No – I was just interested, that's all."
He didn't say anything more, so I didn't either. Until we came out of the park at Ninetieth Street. Then he said, "All right, buddy. Where to?" (9.4-7)
We cover the ducks in detail in "Symbols, Imagery, Allegory," so if this passage does it for you, we'd suggest checking that out. For the moment, though, recall that no one else shares Holden's concern for the ducks (or for disappearing), which adds to his lonely isolation. His obsession with mortality is part of what separates him from the rest of the world.