The Catcher in the Rye | Study Guide

J. D. Salinger

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Chapter 4

Course Hero's video study guide provides in-depth summary and analysis of chapter 4 of J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

The Catcher in the Rye | Chapter 4 | Summary



Holden follows Stradlater to the sink, where the latter shaves. While Ackley is openly disgusting, Stradlater is a "secret slob" who works on his appearance because "he was madly in love with himself." Stradlater asks Holden to write his English composition, a description of a place, for him.

Bored, Holden tap-dances on the stone floor as Stradlater watches in the mirror. Holden creates a persona to go with the dance: a governor's son whose father wants him to attend Oxford, but dancing is in his blood. Stradlater laughs and explains that his date, Jean Gallagher, knew Holden. "Jane Gallagher," Holden clarifies, was his neighbor for a summer. Holden wants to say hello but didn't, and Stradlater promises not to tell Jane that Holden was expelled.


This chapter provides an opportunity to consider Holden as narrator. Narrators can be reliable or unreliable, so as Holden tells his story, readers must consider how he might skew the details he shares.

Holden has already said that he is a liar. If someone asks him where he's going, and the truth is "to the store to buy a magazine," he'll invent a story about "going to the opera." Holden enjoys making up stories and reading fiction. But his bias against "phoniness" and his willingness to lie mean that readers must question the truth about the details he provides. Also, his control over the story means the reader only gets his version of events. He could be exaggerating, downplaying events, or leaving them out altogether.

Generations of readers have embraced Holden as an engaging narrator. However, that doesn't mean they should trust what he says entirely.

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