The Catcher in the Rye

How would you compare Ackley and Stradlater?


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Salinger introduces two Pencey students in Chapter Three, each of whom represent contrasting types of reprehensible behavior. Ackley is ostentatiously boorish; in appearance and in manners he is disgusting and oblivious to all social graces. Hopelessly vulgar and unclean, Ackley is unaware of the contempt that Holden Caulfield has for him, even when Holden confronts him with it. Stradlater, in contrast, is outwardly friendly and considerate, yet still one of the phonies that Holden abhors. Stradlater is playful and charming, but is still self-centered and arrogant. He flaunts his assets, whether physical or monetary. Whether giving away a tie or strutting around the dormitory in a state of undress, he performs these actions to show what he possesses. These characters do, nevertheless, serve the purpose of showing the stifling conditions that Holden faces at Pencey. Ackley and Stradlater demonstrate that Holden’s disgust for the school and its “phonies” is not completely unfounded. Both characters, then, serve as ‘foils’ to Holden -- illuminating both his strengths and weaknesses as the protagonist.