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The Catcher In The Rye

The Catcher in the Rye In J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the first person narration is critical in helping the reader to know and understand the main character, Holden Caulfield. Holden, in his narration, relates a flashback of a significant period of his life, three days and nights on his own in New York City. Through his narration, Holden discloses to the reader his innermost thoughts and feelings. He thus provides the reader not only with information of what occurred, but also how he felt about what happened. Holden’s thoughts and ideas reveal many of his character traits.

One late Saturday night, four days before the beginning of school vacation, Holden is alone, bored and restless, wondering what to do. He decides to leave Pencey, his school, at once and travels to New York by train. He decides that, once in New York, he will stay in a cheap motel until Wednesday, when he is to return home. His plan shows the reader how very impetuous he is and how he acts on a whim. He is unrealistic, thinking that he has a foolproof plan, even though the extent of his plans are to “take a room in a hotel., and just take it easy till Wednesday.” Holden’s excessive thoughts on death are not typical of most adolescents. His near obsession with death might come from having experienced two deaths in his early life.

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He constantly dwells on Allie, his brother’s, death. From Holden’s thoughts, it is obvious that he loves and misses Allie. In order to hold on to his brother and to minimize the pain of his loss, Holden brings Allie’s baseball mitt along with him where ever he goes. The mitt has additional meaning and significance for Holden because Allie had written poetry, which Holden reads, on the baseball mitt. Holden’s preoccupation with death can be seen in his contemplation of a dead classmate, James Castle. It tells the reader something about Holden that he lends his turtleneck sweater to this classmate, with whom he is not at all close.

Holden’s feelings about people reveal more of his positive traits. He constantly calls people phonies, even his brother, D.B., who ” has sold out to Hollywood.” Although insulting, his seemingly negative feelings show that Holden is a thinking and analyzing, outspoken individual who values honesty and sincerity. He is unimpressed with people who try to look good in other’s eyes. Therefore, since it is obvious that Holden is bright, the reason for his flunking out of school would seem to be from a lack of interest. Holden has strong feelings of love towards children as evidenced through his caring for Phoebe, his little sister.

He is protective of her, erasing bad words from the walls in her school and in a museum, in order that she not learn from the graffiti. His fondness for children can be inferred when he tells her that, at some time in the future, he wants to be the only grown-up with “all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all.” He’ll stand on the edge of a cliff and catch anybody who starts to fall off the edge of the cliff. He got this image from his misinterpretation of a line from the Robert Burns poem, ” if a body catch a body comin’ through the rye.” When situations are described, in person or in a book, they are influenced by the one who describes them, and by his or her perceptions and experiences. Through Holden’s expressions of his thoughts and feelings, the reader sees a youth, sensitive to his surroundings, who chooses to deal with life in unique ways. Holden is candid, spontaneous, analytical, thoughtful, and sensitive, as evidenced by his narration.

Like most adolescents, feelings about people and relationships are often on his mind. Unfortunately, in Holden’s case, he seems to expect the worst, believing that the result of getting close to people is pain. Pain when others reject you or pain when they leave you, such as when a friend walks off or a beloved brother dies. It would not have been possible to feel Holden’s feelings or understand his thoughts nearly as well had the book been written in third person.

The Catcher In The Rye!

The Title
Holden sees his purpose as protecting children from a world that does its best to ignore them. He sees himself as the catcher in the rye, saving kids from the unknown. Eventually, Holden realizes that he cannot protect children from the adult world and that they must grow up, and learn by making their own mistakes. Eventually, he will realize that he must enter the adult world too.


The Characters
Holden Caulfield
Holden is both the main character and the narrator of the novel, everything I learned is filtered through Holdens consciousness. I only know of Holden what Holden himself chooses to tell us, and what he chooses to report of what others say about him. Holden is sixteen, thin, wears his hair in a crewcut, doesnt eat much, smokes too much, and is somewhat out of shape. Holden is thoughtful, sensitive in his treatment of others, and that his family is quite rich. Its also evident that Holden is friendly, but seems very lonely. Holden feels most comfortable relating to children, especially his younger siblings Allie and Phoebe. Only children have the honesty and lack of prejudices that the idealistic Holden expects of the world. Grown-ups inevitably disappoint and show themselves to be hypocrites, like his older brother D.B., prostituting his talent in Hollywood, or his former teacher, Mr. Antolini, a drunk stuck in a loveless marriage. Holden associates aging with hypocrisy and death, and this explains his appreciation of the innocence of children and also his own resistance to becoming an adult.

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The plot revolves entirely around Holden, the action of the novel is Holdens adventures while unchaperoned for three days, and other characters are only important in as much as they are important to Holden. What is most interesting about the novel, however, Holdens psychology through the course of the story. The two people Holden says he likes are Thomas Hardy and his younger brother Allie Caulfield. Both are dead. Allie has died of leukemia, and Holden has witnessed the death of a classmate as well. Holdens parents are distant and seemingly unconcerned with their children: instead of getting parental attention he is shipped off to boarding school after boarding school, and when ten-year-old Phoebe admits to smoking a cigarette her mother hardly bothers to scold her.
Phoebe Caulfield
Phoebe is ten years old, with red hair she wears short in the summer and long in the winter, skinny (Holden calls her roller-skate skinny), sensitive, affectionate, and mature for her age, but very emotional. Phoebe goes to the same elementary school in New York City as Holden did; in her spare time she writes stories about her alter ego, a girl detective named Hazle Weatherfield, and skates in the park. In Holdens descriptions she is almost a prodigy, but in her reported conversations she seems simply to be an intelligent and sensitive little sister.


Ackley & Stradlater
Ackley and Stradlater are the two schoolmates of Holden who receive the most attention, and are in many ways flip sides of the same coin. Robert Ackley is a tall, pimply, slouching, slovenly kid (a virgin if I ever saw one, Holden says) who is always hanging around Holdens room, but who instantly disappears whenever Holdens roommate, Ward Stradlater, shows up. Stradlater is the same height as Holden, but is much stronger, more confident, and less thoughtful. He is also arrogant, lazy, and successful with women. Holden himself is somewhere between these two extremes, and tries to mediate between Ackley and Stradlater. J.D. Salinger seems to use this dislikable pair as character foils for Holden, presenting Holden as the happy medium.


The Story
Holden Caulfield is both the narrator and main character of The Catcher in the Rye. He opens the novel by announcing what happened to him over the course of a few days in December, a few months before. Holden had just gotten kicked out of Pencey Prep, a boarding school in rural Pennsylvania, only a few days before Christmas vacation. It is Saturday afternoon when the action begins, and Holden plans to stick around at Pencey until Wednesday, when Christmas break begins.

He stops to say goodbye to his favorite teacher, who lectures him on finding direction in life. Holden returns to his dorm room, and thinks about his brother D.B., a talented short-story writer whos sold out to write scripts for Hollywood. After a while Holdens roommate, Ward Stradlater, returns from the football game to get ready for his date. He happens to mention that his date, Jane Gallagher, knows Holden. Holden remembers Jane quite well: he spent a whole summer with her the year before. Stradlater suggests that Holden go downstairs and say hello, she is waiting for Stradlater downstairs. Holden, however, declines, although he thinks about her and considers calling her throughout the book. When Stradlaters leaving he asks Holden if he will write a composition for him for English class.

Later that evening Holden writes the descriptive composition for Stradlater, deciding to write it about a baseball glove his little brother Allie had owned. Allie died of leukemia several years before, and Holden describes him as the smartest, funniest, nicest person he ever knew. Holden took it very hard when Allie died, broke some windows with his hand, and spent some time in the hospital recovering.

Holden thinks about Stradlater with Jane, on whom he seems to have a crush. When Stradlater returns and wont tell him how the date went, Holden tries to fight him and quickly loses. After Stradlater is asleep, Holden decides to leave tonight rather than wait for Christmas break. He plans to get a hotel room in New York until hes expected home on Wednesday.

After getting off the train in New York, he gets a hotel room, and goes to the bar on the first floor. He tries to get a drink but cant and dances with some women twice his age. Then he goes to another bar. When he arrives back at his hotel, he accepts the elevator boys offer to fix him up with a prostitute.


The prostitute arrives but Holden doesnt feel like sleeping with her. In the morning, the elevator boy comes back with the prostitute and beats him up, taking the money he supposedly owes.

The next day he arranges to go to see a theater show with a girl named Sally Hayes, and buys a record for his kid sister, Phoebe. On the way to the show, he and Sally kiss and he suggests they elope to some little cottage in New England. Afterwards, they quarrel and Holden leaves. He meets up with a former classmate at a bar that night and gets drunk. He thinks about his brother Allies grave, but he never visits it because he hates to think of it getting rained on. He walks across Central Park, accidentally breaks the record for his sister, and decides to go home to see his sister.

Phoebe is happy to see him, but gets mad when she realizes hes been kicked out of another school. Phoebe asks him what he wants to do whens hes grown up, and Holden says he pictures a big field of rye, with lots of children playing in it. At one end of the field is a giant cliff, and Holdens job is to catch the little kids if they get close to the edge, so that they dont fall off the cliff. Holden calls a former teacher of his, Mr. Antolini, who says he can spend the night there. Holden sneaks out of his familys apartment without his parents realizing he has been there.

Mr. Antolini has been drinking, and lectures him on his direction in life. Holden falls asleep on the couch and Mr. Antolini makes a pass at him. Holden leaves and sleeps at the train station. That morning, Holden goes to Phoebes school to arrange to meet her at lunchtime to say goodbye. He decides to take off to go out west and live in some isolated cabin away from New York and from school. While there, he rubs off where someone has written Fuck you on the wall, worried that some kid might see it. On his way out he sees another Fuck you, and realizes that he cant rub them all out and cant protect all the children. When Phoebe meets him at lunchtime she wants to go with him and cries when he says she cannot. He eventually relents and gives up the idea. He buys her tickets and she rides on the Central Park carousel while he sits on a bench and watches her.


Whats the author trying to say?
I think the story is about his life. I think he used different events in his life, made up some characters and made a book out of it. I think what he is trying to say is that so many bad things can happen in your lifetime but instead of worrying about them, think about the good things that can happen in the future.
The characters I liked.

I liked Ackley. He just seemed like a funny guy. I have allot more then just one friend but he has my kind of personality. He liked to go through things and ask questions about them which is something that I love to do. He also is very quiet when he is around people he doesnt like very much, which is another thing I seem to do allot.


The characters I didnt like.

I didnt like Stradlater. He wasnt a very good person and he liked to use girls for sex and other stuff like that. He is the type of person that I hate, allot. He didnt have a very good personality. He was very demanding, like when he told Holden to write that essay. Holden wrote it for him but didnt write what Stradlater wanted him to write about. So he got angry at Holden. He should have appreciated the fact the Holden wrote anything despite the fact he was getting kicked out of school.

I also didnt like Holdens parents. You really didnt hear much about them but they just didnt seem to care about their children at all. They just shipped them off the boarding school without a care, which makes them really bad parents.


How the story relates to my life.

The story didnt really relate to my life at all. I mean I have good friends who treat me with respect, I never got kicked out of school or anything like that. Holdens life is allot different from mine, his whole outlook on life seems so different and in parts of the story wrong to me. I mean, children do look at the world in a whole different way but when you see the reality of it as you get older, the thing to do is to not let it get you down, but find the good in all of it. Which is technically what a child pretty much does.

The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield, the main character in J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, is what I believe to be one of the most well-developed characters which I have read about. He has many characteristics that are all his own, such as the way he views the world, his friends and his family. One of the main things that characterizes Holden, is that way that he thinks the entire world is “phony.”Holden’s view of the world as “phony” is a very strong one, and in most cases, is correct. Holden thinks that the majority of the people in the world are putting on some sort of an act to impress or befriend people. In a way, Holden is probably correct in thinking that most of the people he came in contact with are “phony,” such as his roommate at Pencey, Ward Stradlater. In one instance, Holden refers to Stradlater as a “secret slob.” He describes how Stradlater always tries to be neat and tidy on the outside so as to impress people, but how he is not when you get to know him. In the scene where Holden and Stradlater are in the “can,” and Stradlater is getting ready for a date, Holden describes Stradlater’s razor as “rusty as hell and full of lather and hair and crap.” Another of Holden’s run-ins with “phonies,” came to him while he was in New York City. He was lonely and looking for someone to keep him company, so he calls a girl named Faith Cavendish. He was told about Faith by a friend of his who went to Princeton, Eddie Birdsell. When he calls Faith, she has no desire to talk to him whatsoever, and she makes that quite clear, until Holden drops the name of Eddie, and she instantly perks up at the thought that Holden might be an important person. She asks Holden where he’s calling from, and he replies “a phone booth,” and he tells her that he has no money, and she then tells Holden that she has no time. The way that Faith changes her mind so quickly when she finds that Holden has no money is a prime example of the “phonies” Holden encounters. Another general example of what Holden thinks is “phony” is actors. He talks about how D.B. took Phoebe and him to see “Hamlet,” and he talks about Sir Laurence Olivier, and how the play would have been good, except that Olivier “knew he was good, and that spoils it.” Holden says how he can’t go to a play and pay attention to what the actor is saying because he “has to keep worrying about whether he’s going to do something phony every minute.”Holden has another incident with phonies when he invites Sally Hayes on a date. Holden takes her to a play, which he considers phony as it is, but then at intermission, Sally meets a man who she hasn’t seen for years, and they began a big phony act. Holden says, “You’ve though that they hadn’t seen each other for twenty years they probably even hugged and kissed checks and all.” This is the kind of behavior that Holden obviously never grew up with, isn’t used to, and doesn’t like. Through his experiences in New York City, and his many flings with phony women, Holden grows to believe that everyone in phony in some way. He thinks that the whole world is phony, and it’s not likely that everyone in the world is corrupted or “phony,” so is it possible that all the characters in the novel are all really normal and Holden is really the only “phony” one?

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