The Catcher in the Rye By J. D. Salinger Summary and Analysis Chapter 5

Summary

After a lackluster trip to town with Ackley and another student, Holden settles in to compose the descriptive theme paper for Stradlater. He decides to write about his brother Allie's left-handed baseball glove. Allie died of leukemia on July 18, 1946, while the family was vacationing in Maine. Holden was 13 years old at the time, Allie two years younger. Holden finishes the essay around 10:30 p.m.

Analysis

Pencey's fraudulence extends even to the menu at the dining hall. The main course on Saturday evenings is always steak. Holden suspects that the motive is to impress parents who visit on Sunday and ask their sons what they had to eat for dinner the night before.

At best, life around Agerstown is boring. Holden has no date so he takes a bus into town with Ackley and Mal Brossard, where they play pinball and eat hamburgers. They are back at the dorm by 8:45 p.m.

Allie's left-handed fielder's mitt (not a catcher's mitt, so different from Holden, who wears his hat like a catcher does — backwards) is one of the dominating symbols of the novel. It is significant because it reveals the character of Holden's cherished younger brother. Allie wrote poems, in green ink, all over the glove so that he would have something to read when he was in the field and bored. Holden tells us that Allie was extremely intelligent and the nicest member of his family. He had the kind of red hair, Holden says, that somehow told him when Allie was near, even when he couldn't see him. The night Allie died, Holden slept in the garage and broke his hand while punching out the garage windows.

Throughout the novel, Holden is protective of children and innocence. Surely, this is related to his feelings for Allie, whom he could not defend from death. He keeps Allie's baseball glove with him and often thinks about his brother. We might suspect that such an intimate topic will be wasted on Stradlater.

Chronologically, Holden was 13 when 11-year-old Allie died on July 18, 1946. He is seventeen when he tells his story. Depending on the date of Holden's birthday — and his reliability with numbers — we might make an educated guess as to the time of the action in the novel: apparently, Holden is in California, narrating the novel, sometime around the middle of 1950, probably reporting the events of late 1949.

Glossary

racket any dishonest scheme or practice.

Brown Betty a baked apple pudding made with butter, spices, sugar, and bread crumbs.

galoshes overshoes, especially high, warmly lined overshoes of rubber and fabric.

bridge any of various card games, for two pairs of players, that developed from whist.

boardwalk a walk, often made of wood and elevated, placed along a beach or seafront.

sinus any of the air cavities in the skull opening into the nasal cavities.

halitosis bad-smelling breath.

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