Holden begins the chapter by admitting that he was lying to Mr. Spencer about having to pick his things up in the gym. Despite constantly criticizing the rest of the world for being "phonies," Holden concedes that he himself lies as a matter of course. This reminds us as readers to question his reliability as a narrator, despite his apparent frankness.
He goes on to talk about his dorm at Pencey, which was named after an alumnus who made a fortune with a chain of funeral homes. When the alum, Mr. Ossenberger, came to speak in chapel, a student named Edgar Marsalla "laid this terrific fart" which the speaker pretended not to have heard. The headmaster, Mr. Thurmer, gave everyone mandatory study hall as a result.
Holden gets to his room, and puts on a red hunting hat he'd bought in New York that day after losing the fencing equipment on the subway. Since everyone is still down at the football game, he sits and reads a book from the library, Out of Africa by Isak Dineson. Holden's favorite authors are his brother and Ring Lardner (a short story writer who got his start as a sportswriter). He's also read Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy and Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham. Through reading, Holden is looking for some sort of connection with people: "What really knocks me out is a book that, when you're done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it." Hardy, Holden says, is one such author. Although Holden doesn't seem to know this, Thomas Hardy is dead.
Robert Ackley, who lives next door, drops by to bother him. Ackley is a tall, pimply, slouching, slovenly kid who is always hanging around Holden's room but who instantly disappears whenever Holden's roommate, Ward Stradlater, shows up. Holden is about the only one Ackley does seem to like. Holden tries to continue reading, and Ackley wanders around the room, looking at Holden's things, including a picture of a girl Holden knows from New York, Sally Hayes. Ackley makes fun of his hat, saying that it's the sort of hat people go hunting in, a deer-shooting hat. Holden pretends to take aim and says: "Like hell it is ... This is a people shooting hat."
Holden tells Ackley that Stradlater isn't around because he's at the game with a date. Since Stradlater isn't around, Ackley takes the opportunity to criticize him for his supposedly superior attitude. Holden defends his roommate, saying that though he's conceited, he's also really generous. Minutes later Stradlater rushes in, asking if he can borrow Holden's houndstooth coat. He says hello to Ackley, who promptly leaves. Stradlater goes to the bathroom for a hurried shave, because his date is waiting downstairs.
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Points to Ponder
Did You Know
Chapter 4 and 5
Chapter 6 and 7
Chapter 8 and 9
Chapter 10 and 11
Chapter 12 and 13
Chapter 14 and 15
Chapter 17 and 18
Chapter 19 and 20
Chapter 21 and 22
Chapter 23 and 24