Chapter 6, 7 & 8
Stradlater returns and reads Holden’s essay failing to appreciate its
significance. Holden grabs the essay back and rips it up.
The fact that Stradlater was on a date with Jane helps fuel the argument. Holden quizzes Stradlater as to what happened between the two and when Stradlater arrogantly gives details of their physical relationship, Holden attacks him. Stradlater pins him to the floor, punches him on his nose, making it bleed, all the while giving him verbal abuse. Battered and bruised, Holden goes into Ackley’s room to sleep.
Not being able to settle in Ackley’s room, Holden decides to leave Pencey
Prep early rather than waiting until the Wednesday (his official final day).
He decides that a trip to New York City for a few days before going home might be a good idea. Heading towards the exit of the dorm, he shouts ‘Sleep tight ya morons’ and leaves Pencey for good.
Holden takes the train to New York and meets the mother of one of his fellow
students, Ernest Morrow. Although Holden dislikes Morrow intensely, he makes up good stories about him saying what a clever student he is, whilst posing as a student adviser.
His explanation why he is leaving early before the end of the semester is
that he requires an operation for a brain tumor.
Holden shows kindness towards Ackley by allowing him to join him on a trip
to the town center.
In writing the essay for Stradlater, the reader is aware of the strong ties,
which exist between him and his deceased brother Allie. One questions why he chose this subject for the essay as it clearly would be wasted on Stradlater. Perhaps it is an early cry for help, not
particularly aimed at Stradlater, but at the world in general.
Stradlater’s criticism of the essay coupled with taunts about his relationship with Jane sparks Holden into attacking Stradlater, who duly humiliates and punishes him.
Humiliated and feeling only revulsion for his fellow students, even Ackley
due to his slovenly habits, Holden decides to seek solace somewhere else before going home. Perhaps New York City has the answer.
It is well to take stock at this stage remembering that the reader is
witnessing the slow onslaught of Holden’s nervous breakdown.
At no stage does Holden state that he fears for his sanity. Salinger merely describes a series of bizarre episodes, which lead you to only one conclusion – Holden is going mad.
Some of these events are: the strange hat; writing an essay for Stradlater
on such a personal topic; attacking Stradlater for casual talk about Jane; leaving the dorm in the middle of the night yelling insults to his fellow students; and habitual, ludicrous lie-telling.