The Catcher in the Rye is narrated by Holden Caulfield, a sixteen year-old boy
recuperating in a rest home from a nervous breakdown, some time in 1950.
tells the story of his last day at a school called Pencey Prep, and of his
subsequent psychological meltdown in New York City. Holden has been expelled
from Pencey for academic failure, and after an unpleasant evening with his
self-satisfied roommate Stradlater and their pimply next-door neighbor Ackley,
he decides to leave Pencey for good and spend a few days alone in New York City
before returning to his parents’ Manhattan apartment. In New York, he succumbs
to increasing feelings of loneliness and desperation brought on by the hypocrisy
and ugliness of the adult world; he feels increasingly tormented by the memory
of his younger brother Allie’s death, and his life is complicated by his
burgeoning sexuality. He wants to see his sister Phoebe and his old girlfriend
Jane Gallagher, but instead he spends his time with Sally Hayes, a shallow
socialite Holden’s age, and Carl Luce, a pretentious Columbia student Holden
treats as a source of sexual knowledge Increasingly lonely, Holden finally
decides to sneak back to his parents’ apartment to talk to Phoebe.
some money from her, then goes to stay with his former English teacher, Mr.
Antolini. When he believes Mr. Antolini to be making a homosexual advance toward
him, Holden leaves his apartment, and spends the rest of the night on a bench in
Grand Central Station.
The next day Holden experiences the worst phase of his
nervous breakdown. He wanders the streets, looking at children and talking to
Allie. He tries to leave New York forever and hitchhike west, but when Phoebe
insists on going with him he relents, agreeing to go back home to protect his
sister from the ugliness of the world. He takes her to the park, and watches her
ride on the merry-go-round; he suddenly feels overwhelmed by an inexplicable,
Holden concludes his story by refusing to talk about what
happened after that, but he fills in the most important details: he went home,
was sent to the rest home, and will attend a new school next year. He regrets
telling his story to so many people; talking about it, he says, makes him miss