The Catcher in the Rye Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of The Catcher in the Rye

J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age novel, written from the prospective of the protagonist and first person narrator, Holden Caulfield in the 1950s era. The book details the week long stay in New York of Holden in the form of a flashback. Salinger portrays through the story the theme that growing up can be a hard and difficult experience.
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At the beginning of the novel Holden is currently residing in a sanitarium of some kind, at this point the reason for him being there is unclear. Holden attends Pencey Prep school and has apparently failed and suffered expulsion from many similar schools, he has just been expelled from Pencey as well. Upon hearing the news he pays a visit to Old Spencer an elderly teacher of Holden's. Holden is not being expelled because he does not have the capacity to learn or that he isn't smart enough for the prep school environment but that he isn't applying himself as Mr. Spencer puts it. Later on Holden's roommate Stradlater is going on a date with a girl from Holden's past, Jane Gallagher and Holden becomes infuriatingly jealous after a while. Stradlater asks him to write his homework for him and Holden reluctantly agrees. While Holden is writing the composition we learn a significant fact about Holden's family, Holden has a sister and two brothers, one of which has recently passed away, Holden still carries around his baseball glove, on which several poems are written. When Stradlater returns from his date Holden fears that the two have engaged in sexual intercourse and a skirmish soon occurs. Holden is knocked out by Stradlater and then decides to sleep in his friend Ackley. Holden realizes that his parents won't get the news of his expulsion for another week so he decides to spend some time in New York.

Holden rents a room in the Edmont Hotel and observes several odd occurrences in the rooms opposite his including a man dressing into women's clothing and a couple spitting water into each others mouths as an act of sex. Holden smokes in is room for a while then calls Faith Cavendish in an attempt to get her to have sex with him, she declines his offer and wants to meet him the very next day but Holden is too impatient and rejects her offer. After this disappointment Holden goes downstairs to The Lavender Room, a hotel bar and dances with three girls there, Holden believes he can obtain alcoholic beverages from this establishment due to is grey hair but the bartender refuses to serve him. Later on that night, an elevator operator Maurice offers to send a prostitute to Holden's room, he cautiously accepts and is greeted by an intimidating young girl, who reminds him of his own sister. Eventually, Holden decides not to have sex with her and settles for her just sitting on his lap. He pays her regardless but later on Maurice barges in demanding more money. Ultimately Holden is knocked out by him and paces around the room pretending he's been shot in his gut.

The next day, Holden calls up Sally Hays and they go to see a Broadway musical together, he is annoyed when she converses with a previous boyfriend, they later go to ice-skate but Holden annoys her to the point where she leaves. Holden meets a friend he looks up to at a bar and tries to get him to talk about his sex life but he is annoyed and leaves, Holden becomes quite drunk, Holden calls Sally Hays and discusses Christmas plans, and Holden then goes to visit his younger sister Phoebe in his house. Phoebe can tell he is intoxicated and gives him money to support himself, after being urged b his sister to tell his parents that he failed out of school, Holden departs.

A call is made to Mr. Antolini an influential teacher in Holden's life and he attempts to spend the night at his house until being awoken by what Holden describes as a flitty pass, Holden then rushes out and sleeps on a bench in Grand Central Station. When he wakes up he visits Phoebes school and leaves her a message that he is running away. Phoebe later greets him with the intention of going with him to wherever it is he is going but Holden declines. While she rides on a carousel, Holden begins crying and has a mental breakdown. At the very end Holden tells her that he is recovering and will soon be going back to school.
The review of this Book prepared by Kyle Johnson

This book is a backwards-looking stream-of-conciousness styled account written in the 1st person by a young adult male. He describes his being kicked out of yet another prep. academy, and every other issue floating around in his head. It is a story of a boy's growing pains and searching for himself amidst a muddle of thoughts.
The review of this Book prepared by Letty Flett

A teen kicked out of a prep school in the 1950's searches for meaning in New York city over several while coming to terms with his younger brother's death, a sexually charged run-in with a former teacher, and understanding a loss of innocence.   
The review of this Book prepared by Brittany Webber

This is the most popular, the most vivid, and probably the most accurate American teenage angst novel there is. It is easy to read, sharp but not pretentious, and only just over two hundred pages long, all of which help explain its steady popularity. As it was published in 1951 and set in New York, it is a real tribute to be able to say that fifty years on it has dated very little. If you think teen culture moves with the speed of light and who can keep up, then this book says 'Not'.

The story is told in the first person, Holden Cauldfield is a Pencey Prep., Agerstown, Pennsylvania, student telling it in a way that holds your attention from beginning to end. The constant 'I' in every other sentence should get you down, but it doesn't. Whether you are a teenager, or you have teenagers, or you just remember being 'like that', his story holds you. He does not know what he wants in life, or why people want what they want of him, or why he does lots of the things he does, or why they do lots of what they do. He has just flunked out of Pencey Prep., just like all his other swanky schools, and he can't figure out what he is going to do. He wanders about the city a lot before he has to go home to face his folks. He dates lots. He drinks lots. He thinks lots. He gets sick. He loves his brothers (one live, one dead) and his sister, he knows whom he likes and whom he doesn't. Mostly he doesn't. He tries not to hate anyone, they can't help it mostly. People aren't all they seem. Some are a lot less than they seem, some a lot more. You can get burned finding out the difference. There are lots of phonies around and that's what he likes least. He tries not to be phoney himself, and mostly he succeeds. He'd like answers to his questions, but by the end of the book he still hasn't found them. And he knows that the adults he has meet never figured it out either, they got older, but they didn't get wiser although they pretend they did. That's phoney. They didn't even get the question, let alone the answer. He still wonders what the point is really.
The review of this Book prepared by Michael JR Jose

'The Catcher in the Rye' is a book told by the character Holden Caulfield, a seventeen-year old high school drop out. By failing all but one of his school subjects, he manages to escape the highly structured academic environment and the demands placed upon him by teachers and other students. Before he decides to face up to his parents, he roams around late 1940's New York and encounters two parallel worlds: one of prostitutes, sleezy bar owners, bums and alcoholics and one of kids on merry-go rounds and his own childhood memories. Even though Holden's emotional instability and lack of direction in life is rather saddening, it is a extremely funny book, especially relating to his antagonism towards society's "phonieness" and the dialogue he has with other characters.   
The review of this Book prepared by J. Hatton

Holden has been in trouble at more than one school, and this time he knows he's in major trouble with his parents. So one weekend, he takes off from his boarding school in Pennsylvania and heads for New York City without letting anyone know where he is, figuring he deserves a little break before the storm. The story is told entirely from Holden's point of view, revealing what annoys him, amuses him, enthralls him...and why he doesn't bother living up to his parents expectations. It is a coming of age story about a teenage boy who just isn't quite sure where he belongs or how to please the people around him while rebelling against that very notion.
The review of this Book prepared by Sarrah

Catcher In the Rye captures a decent, introverted, intricately honest youth's journey into searching for himself and his place in the world. Holden Caulfield treasures the innocence, and the genuine humanity of people in a backdrop of a society he potrays as superficial and lacking in special bonds in the life of a wealthy New Yorker in the 1940s. Holden holds close to his heart Phoebe, his little sister, whom he wants to protect from losing innocence. His journey into searching for an identity helps to finally grow and change to develop, relieving some of the growing pains and a sense of learning.
The review of this Book prepared by Christina L.

A teen struggles with feelings of isolation and makes many attempts to connect with others. He critisizes all those around him. He idealizes youth and innocence and wishes to preserve them.
The review of this Book prepared by K P

J.D had alot of time on his hands when he made this one!
The review of this Book prepared by Shanise

Holden Cualfield is in a psychoanylyst's office telling about a few days he spent in New York after leaving boarding school. He rants about society's hypocrisy and selfishness.
The review of this Book prepared by Sarah Bunch

Alienated kid comes to New York, wanders around, checks out the Museum of Natural History to see his Mummie.
The review of this Book prepared by steve

Chapter Analysis of The Catcher in the Rye

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   thoughtful Time/era of story    -   1930's-1950's Kids growing up/acting up?    -   Yes Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Age group of kid(s) in story:    -   high school Something wrong upstairs/downstairs?    -   searching for identity/meaning Parents/lack of parents problem?    -   rebelling against parent's expectations Wild kid(s)?    -   runaway! Loving/sexing?    -   girl chasing

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   student Age:    -   a teen Ethnicity/Nationality    -   White (American)


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   4 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Northeast City?    -   Yes City:    -   New York

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only Lot of foul language?    -   Yes Amount of dialog    -   significantly more descript than dialog

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J.D. Salinger Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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