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.
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.
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 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.
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.