Study Guide

Stradlater in The Catcher in the Rye

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Stradlater is super dreamy: he's an athlete, he's handsome, he's got a nice body, he's always walking around in a towel to show off that body, and, oh yeah, he's a "goddam stupid moron" (6.40).

But there's one thing Stradlater is good at: sex. As Holden tells us, "Most guys at Pencey just talked about having sexual intercourse with girls all the time—like Ackley, for instance—but old Stradlater really did it. I was personally acquainted with at least two girls he gave the time to. That's the truth" (7.32).

Still, we're a little concerned about Stradlater, because his technique—well, it sounds a lot like coercion to us:

What he'd do was, he'd start snowing his date in this very quiet, sincere voice—like as if he wasn't only a very handsome guy but a nice, sincere guy, too. I damn near puked, listening to him. His date kept saying, "No—please. Please, don't. Please." But old Stradlater kept snowing her in this Abraham Lincoln, sincere voice, and finally there'd be this terrific silence in the back of the car. It was really embarrassing. I don't think he gave that girl the time that night—but damn near. Damn near. (7.40)

We don’t exactly approve of Holden punching him, but we're not shedding too many tears about it, either. If this is one of Holden's only models of a sexually active man, no wonder he has so many hangups about sex. Check out the difference between them when they talk about Jane Gallagher, Stradlater's date and Holden's crush: while Holden talks about her chess playing, her childhood, and her golfing, Stradlater is only interested in "very sexy stuff" (4.53)—like her possible history of sexual abuse. Nice.

One question, though: can we trust Holden's descriptions? Is this guy really so bad? Look back at his "personally acquainted bit": doesn't that sound just a little like a "friend-of-a-friend" story? Can we really be sure that Stradlater is getting all the action he says he is? Maybe he's really just an average guy, and Holden can't deal with average.

Either way, he's still not a guy you'd want in the backseat of a car with a girl you care about.

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