Study Guide

The Catcher in the Rye Chapter 5

By J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 5

  • On Saturday night, the boys at Pencey always get steak for dinner.
  • Why? Parents visit on Sunday, so, when they ask their son what he had for dinner last night, he'll say "steak."
  • Holden and his friend Mal Brossard take the bus into town for the night. He convinces Mal to let Ackley come along with them, because otherwise the kid will sit in his room and pick his pimples all night. What a pal.
  • It's snowing (since it's December in Pennsylvania), and Holden packs a snowball.
  • He tries to throw it at about ten different objects but keeps changing his mind, and finally just carries it around until they get on the bus and the driver tells him to ditch it. We're pretty sure this is symbolic.
  • They don't end up going to the movie theater after all, since Mal and Ackley already saw it and Holden doesn't like watching movies with people who laugh at stuff that isn't even funny.
  • Gee, Holden, just because you have no sense of humor…
  • When they get back to the dorm, Ackley sits on Holden's bed and picks his pimples and won't leave after a barrage of hints that, really, he should leave. Now. Ackley then proceeds to tell a fake sex story (and we can tell it's fake because it contains inconsistencies).
  • Finally, he gets out of there. Holden puts on his jammies, a bathrobe, and his red hunting hat to write Stradlater's composition.
  • It's supposed to be a descriptive work, but Holden can't think of a room or a house or anything like that. All he can think of is his brother Allie's baseball mitt.
  • Allie was left-handed and (accordingly) had a left-handed fielder's mitt. The thing about it is that it was covered in poems that Allie had written on in green ink so that he'd have something to do while hanging around in the ballfield (that is, read the poems).
  • Allie's dead now, Holden tells us. He died from leukemia in 1946 (which we can infer to be three years before the events taking place, and four years before Holden's telling us this story).
  • Here's what Holden tells us about Allie: he was intelligent and good-natured and had red hair—the kind you could see from a mile away. He used to laugh so hard he'd fall off his chair.
  • Oh, and the night that Allie died, he (Holden) went into the garage and broke all the windows with his fist—"just for the hell of it."
  • He tried to break all the windows on the car, too, but unfortunately he'd already broken his hand. He still can't make a good fist, but it's cool. It's not like he's going to be a violinist or anything.
  • Listening to Ackley snoring, Holden feels "a little sorry for the crazy sonuvab****."

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