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The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 3

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 3 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 3 | Summary



Holden admits that he is "the most terrific liar you ever saw." He lies to get away from Spencer, saying he has to go to the gym. Instead, he heads to his dorm.

In his room Holden tries on a red hunting hat that he'd bought on a whim in the city that morning and starts to read a novel. Robert Ackley, the badly groomed resident of the next room, barges in. When Holden tries to keep reading, Ackley pesters him. As Holden pulls his new hat over his eyes, Ackley insults the hat and brings up Holden's expulsion.

When Ackley demands that Holden get him scissors, Stradlater's heavy tennis racket falls and hits Holden in the head, sending Ackley into high-pitched laughter. Ackley trims his thick toenails with the scissors, talking about how he hates Stradlater. Holden defends his roommate until Stradlater himself enters, asks to borrow Holden's jacket, and greets Ackley with a "phony" friendliness. Ackley grunts and leaves.


As Holden narrates his interaction with his peers, readers become more aware of his distinctive expressions.

  • Holden uses sarcasm often. When Ackley asks what he is reading, Holden responds, "Goddam book." When Ackley asks if it is good, Holden retorts, "This sentence I'm reading is terrific."
  • He emphasizes syllables as he speaks. Readers can hear both humor and the irritation in Holden's exaggerated emphasis.
  • He grasps language's effect on people. He repeatedly refers to Ackley, a senior, as "Ackley kid" just to anger him.

"Listening" to these exchanges helps readers get to know the funny, frustrating, decent teenager who tells the story. Holden's use of language reveals him as a likable and relatable character.

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