Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 3

By J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 3

  • Uh-oh. Holden's a liar. In fact, he's "the most terrific liar you ever saw in your life."
  • Okay, so… can we believe any of this?
  • After a short discourse on lying, Holden moves on to tell us that he lives in a dormitory donated by an alumnus named Ossenburger, who made all his money with cheap funeral parlors.
  • Holden doesn't like the guy (Ossenburger came to Pencey to give a big, "corny speech" about praying to Jesus).
  • In fact, the only good part of the speech was when someone in the audience let one rip.
  • Back in his dorm, Holden and puts on a red hunting cap—he's partial to the thing and wears it with the peak swung around to the back.
  • No wonder this guy has trouble fitting in.
  • Time to relax. Holden chills out for a while by reading Out of Africa, which he got by mistake from the library.
  • Naturally, that means it's time for a discourse on books. Holden's brother D.B. is his favorite author (or Ring Lardner, who writes sports-related stories), but mostly Holden just likes books where you can laugh once in a while.
  • You know, books that, after you read them, you wish the author was a friend of yours that you could just call up and talk to. (Like, say, Catcher in the Rye?)
  • Holden wouldn't mind calling up old Thomas Hardy, which honestly makes us doubt his sanity. Again.
  • Anyway, a few pages into Out of Africa, this guy Robert Ackley busts in. He's a tall guy with dirty teeth and pimples.
  • After making sure Holden's roommate (Stradlater) isn't there, Ackley settles in for a good heart-to-heart.
  • Holden isn't interested.
  • So, Ackley does the next best thing: walk around Holden's room, pick up all his stuff, and put it back in the wrong place.
  • One such item is Holden's picture of a girl he "used to go around with" named Sally Hayes. (This is basically the equivalent of an "It's Complicated" Facebook status: it was somewhere between "hanging out" and "exchanging class rings.")
  • Holden finally gives up starts "horsing around," a.k.a. pulling a hunting cap over his eyes and pretending to be blind.
  • Remind us how he said he sometimes acts like he's twelve.
  • Ackley asks about Holden's red hat, informing him that it's a deer-hunting hat.
  • Nope, says Holden; it's a people-shooting hat. (This would earn you a quick visit from the police today, but apparently times were simpler back then.)
  • Ackley proceeds to cut his toenails and leave the clippings all over the floor. Ew.
  • The boys go back to talking about Stradlater, who is out on a date. Ackley is really not a fan of this guy, but it seems the reason is because Stradlater told him he should really brush his teeth once in a while.
  • Lay off him, says Holden. He might be conceited, but, if Stradlater were wearing a tie you really liked, he'd just take it off and give it to you.
  • (Clue #129 that times were different: teenage guys talk about wearing ties like it's an everyday thing.)
  • Speak of the devil, here comes Stradlater to ask for Holden's hound's-tooth jacket.
  • Ackley takes off and Holden gives up his jacket, asking Stradlater not to stretch it out with his "goddamn shoulders," which are apparently broad. Swoon!
  • Stradlater takes off his shirt and tie so he can have a shave and show off his fantastic body, like, OKAY, Taylor, we get it. You have excellent muscular development.
  • Meanwhile, his date is waiting in the annex.

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