Catcher in the Rye - His story starts on Holden's last day at Pencey Prep | FreebookSummary (2023)

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He is standing on the crest of a hill that overlooks the school’s football field. It is the final game of the season, but Holden has never cared much for established tradition. He instead runs across the street to the residence of Mr. Spencer, his history teacher. It is revealed here that Holden has been expelled, and that he doesn’t particularly care.

Holden talks with old acquaintances at school and ultimately leaves for New York City, electing to stay there. He considers hitchhiking out west and building a cabin away from everyone he knows. Through the course of the novel, he propositions an ex-girlfriend he doesn’t particularly like to come with him, who declines.

The next day, he arranges to have his younger sister, Phoebe, meet him at lunchtime; she is carrying one of Holden’s old suitcases full of her clothes. Phoebe tells Holden that she is going with him. He angrily refuses, feeling that he has influenced her to want to go with him instead of staying in school. She cries and refuses to speak to him. Knowing that she will follow him, Holden walks to the zoo, letting her anger lift. Phoebe starts talking to Holden again, and Holden promises to forget about his plan to run away and return home on Wednesday. He buys her a ticket for the carousel in the park and watches her ride an old horse on it. As Holden watches her ride the carousel, his own mood lifts. Soon he is nearly moved to tears with remorse, longing, and bittersweet happiness.

At this point in the book, he explains that he will be going to another school in the fall again and wonders whether he will apply himself. He mentions that he is being psychoanalyzed and finishes with the words, “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody”.


Holden Caulfield is the protagonist and narrator of the story. Holden is seventeen when he tells the story, but was sixteen years old when the events took place.[9] His narration begins with his expulsion (for academic failure) from a school called Pencey Prep. He is intelligent and sensitive, but Holden narrates in a cynical and jaded voice. He finds the hypocrisy, “phoniness”, and ugliness of the world around him unbearable.

D.B. Caulfield is Holden’s older brother and lives in Hollywood. Holden professes to despise cinema for he believes it exemplifies his concept of “phoniness”, but throughout the book he offers thoughtful and in-depth commentaries on films he has seen.

Allie Caulfield was Holden’s younger brother, who died of leukemia when Holden was thirteen. Even though Allie was younger than Holden, Holden idolized Allie. Holden even prays to his deceased brother for safety. The night of Allie’s death, Holden smashed all the windows in the family garage with his bare fists leading to permanent damage to his hand. Because of this injury, Holden can no longer make a tight fist with his right hand. It can also be speculated that Allie’s death damaged Holden mentally and is the cause of his behaviour in

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the book.

Jane Gallagher is a girl with whom Holden spent a lot of time one summer, when their families stayed in neighboring summer houses in Maine. Holden likes to remember Jane as a sensitive, innocent girl with a unique approach to checkers. She is Stradlater’s date Saturday evening, which bothers Holden.

Ward Stradlater Holden’s roommate at Pencey Prep. Stradlater is handsome, self-satisfied, and popular, but Holden calls him a “secret slob,” because he appears well groomed, but his toiletries, such as his razor, are disgustingly unclean. Stradlater is sexually active and quite experienced for a prep school student, which is why Holden also calls him a “sexy bastard.”

Robert Ackley Holden’s next-door neighbor in his dorm at Pencey Prep. Ackley is a pimply, insecure boy with terrible dental hygiene. He often barges into Holden’s room and acts completely oblivious to Holden’s hints that he should leave. Holden believes that Ackley makes up elaborate lies about his sexual experience.

Mr. Spencer is Holden’s history teacher at Pencey Prep.

Sally Hayes is a very attractive girl whom Holden has known and dated for a long time. Though Sally is well read, Holden claims that she is “stupid,” although it is difficult to tell whether this judgment is based in reality or merely in Holden’s ambivalence about being sexually attracted to her. She is certainly more conventional than Holden in her tastes and manners.

Phoebe Caulfield is Holden’s younger sister. She is in the fourth grade at the time Holden leaves Pencey Prep. In some ways, she can be even more mature than him, even criticizing him for childishness, although she clearly idolizes Holden.

(Video) Language, Voice, and Holden Caulfield - The Catcher in the Rye Part 1: CC English Literature #6

Mrs. Morrow The mother of Holden’s contemptible classmate, Ernest, she shares a train ride and creative conversation with “Rudolf Schmidt,” the alias used by Holden.

Horwitz The most interesting of the cab drivers in the novel, he takes Holden to Ernie’s Nightclub and offers unusual zoological insight regarding those ducks and the fish at the lagoon.

Maurice The elevator operator at the Edmont Hotel and Sunny’s pimp, who procures a prostitute for Holden.

Sunny The prostitute Holden hires through Maurice. She is one of a number of women in the book with whom Holden clumsily attempts to connect.

Bernice, Marty, and Laverne Three thirtyish tourists from Seattle, they leave Holden with the tab at the Lavender Room. Bernice is a very good dancer.

Carl Luce A student at Columbia who was Holden’s student advisor at the Whooton School. Luce is three years older than Holden and has a great deal of sexual experience. At Whooton, he was a source of knowledge about sex for the younger boys, and Holden tries to get him to talk about sex at their meeting.

Lillian Simmons All bust and no brains, she and her date ask Holden to sit with them at Ernie’s. She used to date D.B. and oozes her fake charm in hopes of making a good impression.

Ernie A talented pianist at his own club in Greenwich Village, he exemplifies Holden’s concept of an artist

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(Video) A Book Summary of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

who has sold out.

James Castle A student at Elkton Hills, he jumped to his death rather than recant a statement about an arrogant bully.

Mr. Antolini Holden’s former English teacher at the Elkton Hills School. Holden sometimes finds him a bit too clever, but he looks to him for guidance and support.


Bruce Brooks noted that Holden’s attitude is the same at the end as it was in the beginning, which implies a lack of growth in distinguishing the story from young adult fiction.[10] On the other hand, Louis Menand claimed that teachers assign it to students because of the optimism at the end, that “alienation is just a phase.” [11] While Brooks maintained that Holden acts his age, Menand observed that Holden thinks like an adult with his ability to see through people clearly.

The novel has been interpreted as having only a negative answer to the social problems it expresses. In another type of critique, its philosophy has been negatively compared with that of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.[12]

Phoebe’s character plays an important role of influencing Holden. Her name, Phoebe, is from the Greek Phoibus, referring to the Greek sun and moon god. [13] The comparison suggests that she serves as an oracle figure for Holden, to whom he can confide and seek advice. [13] Phoebe also stands to be a catalytic character for Holden. Holden pictures himself as a catcher in the rye; he imagines himself standing on a cliff in a field of rye with children playing tag around him, and as they strayed too close to the edge, he would be the one to catch them, and save them from falling. [14] Phoebe and Holden seem to exchange roles as the catcher-fallen as well. Holden gives her the symbol of the catcher, his hunting hat, and becomes the fallen just as Phoebe assumes the role of the catcher. [15]

However, in the final few pages of the novel, Holden realizes that he cannot take control of Phoebe’s life nor prevent her from growing up. Inevitably, she will make mistakes as she matures, but he sees that he must allow her to grab the “gold ring” on the merry-go-round – a symbol of adolescent errors. Inevitably, this will include some of what he terms “phoniness.” Therefore, Holden has indeed changed over the course of the novel, and has come to terms, to some extent, with his inability to be a “catcher” for Phoebe and all other children – he must allow them to grow up for themselves.

It has also been suggested that Holden is telling his story to a doctor in a hospital on account of it being a first person narrative and the fact that it is a circular story.

(Video) The Catcher in the Rye | Summary & Analysis | J.D. Salinger


In 1960, a teacher was fired, and later reinstated, for assigning the novel in class.[16] Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.[17] In 1981, it was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.[18] According to the American Library Association,

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The Catcher in the Rye was the 13th most frequently challenged book from 1990–2000.[1] It was one of the 10 most challenged books in 2005, and came off the list in 2006.[19]

The challenges generally begin with vulgar language, citing the novel’s use of words like fuck[20] and “goddam”,[21] with more general reasons including sexual references,[22] blasphemy, undermining of family values[21] and moral codes,[23] Holden’s being a poor role model,[24] encouragement of rebellion,[25] and promotion of drinking, smoking, lying, and promiscuity.[23] Often, the challengers have been unfamiliar with the plot itself.[17] Shelley Keller-Gage, a high school teacher who faced objections after assigning the novel in her class, noted that the challengers “are being just like Holden … They are trying to be catchers in the rye.”[21] A reverse effect has been that this incident caused people to put themselves on the waiting list to borrow the novel, when there were none before.[26]

Mark David Chapman, who assassinated John Lennon, was carrying the book when he was arrested immediately after the murder and referred to it in his statement to police shortly thereafter.[27] He also read a passage from the book at his sentencing. John Hinckley, Jr., who attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was also reported to have been obsessed with the book.[28] Robert John Bardo, who murdered Rebecca Schaeffer, was carrying the book when he visited Schaeffer’s apartment in Hollywood on July 18, 1989.

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(Video) The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger - Book Summary


What is Holden's Goodbye to Pencey Prep? ›

What is Holden's final goodbye to Pencey Prep? In the hallway he yells, "Sleep tight, ya morons!"

Where does Holden's story begin? ›

The story begins with Holden at Pencey Prep School on his way to the house of his history teacher, Spencer, so that he can say goodbye. He reveals to the reader that he has been expelled for failing most of his classes.

What happened to Holden at Pencey Prep? ›

Holden has been expelled from Pencey Prep because he has flunked four subjects (passing only English), including Mr. Spencer's history class.

How does Holden feel as he is about to leave Pencey Prep? ›

He must begin his journey home and face his parents, but first he wants to say goodbye to Pencey Prep, however he does not feel anything about leaving. This apathy, or lack of emotion, bothers Holden. He seems to realize that without feeling, one walks through life without living it.

What is the last thing Holden does before leaving Pencey? ›

He packs his bags, dons his hunting hat, and begins to cry. As he heads into the hallway, he yells “Sleep tight, ya morons!” to the boys on his floor before stepping outside to leave Pencey forever.

What day does Holden leave Pencey? ›

Holden leaves Pencey and goes to New York City

Holden decides to leave Pencey early. He was supposed to go home Wednesday, but decides to hang around New York City alone until then, in order to avoid his parents until then so that they don't know he was kicked out early.

What chapter does Holden leave Pencey? ›

At the end of Chapter 7, Holden decides to leave Pencey Prep and goes to New York.

Where was Holden at the end of the story? ›

In Chapter 26, despite his refusal to talk any more about his story, Holden nevertheless fills in some key missing details: he went home; he was sent to a rest home to recover from the breakdown; he's in psychotherapy; and he plans to go to a new school in the fall.

When did Holden's depression start? ›

After his brother Allie dies, Holden falls into a deep depression where nothing seems to matter anymore. He questions the meaning of things around him, has suicidal thoughts, and rids himself of materialism.

What does Holden do before leaving Pencey early? ›

What does Holden do before leaving Pencey early? He yelled very loudly, "sleep tight, ya morons!" Who does Holden meet on the train to New York? Ernest Morrow's mother; Ernest is a classmate at Pencey's.

Who does Holden visit before leaving Pencey Prep? ›

Before leaving Pencey Prep for good, Holden visits his history teacher, Mr. Spencer.

Who does Holden visit at Pencey Prep before leaving campus? ›

He begins the story of his last day at Pencey Prep by telling how he stood at the top of Thomsen Hill, preparing to leave the school and trying to feel “some kind of a good-by.” He visits Spencer in Chapter 2 even though he failed Spencer's history class, and he seems to respond to Mrs.

How and why does Holden plan on leaving Pencey that night? ›

How and why does Holden plan on leaving Pencey that night? The reason why Holden is planning to leave Pencey is because he feels overwhelmed, by what he perceives to be, the hypocrisy of how the other people he knows there are phony according to his opinion.

Why didn t Holden like Pencey Prep? ›

For Holden, the ad embodies the fundamental hypocrisy of Pencey Prep. The expensive school claims be a place that shapes boys into young men of character, but Holden cynically dismisses it as a place full of crooks and phonies.

What is the significance of Pencey Prep? ›

According to the band's Myspace page, the name is taken from the book The Catcher In The Rye; Pencey Prep was the name of the school that the main character Holden got expelled from.

What is his final goodbye to Pencey Prep why do you think Holden was crying as he left? ›

Why do you think Holden was crying as he left Pencey Prep? He probably felt bad for getting kicked out of his schools over and over again, and he didn't get to say goodbye to anyone.

Where does Holden end up after leaving Pencey and what are his plans? ›

Phoebe continues to be terribly upset over Holden's dismissal from Pencey Prep. She is sure that their father will be very upset with her brother. Holden says he'll merely be sent to a military school, if he is still around; he plans to head for Colorado to work on a ranch.

What is Holden's final gesture before leaving the school? ›

What is Holden's final gesture before leaving Pencey Prep? He yells, "Sleep tight, you morons!" as he leaves Pencey Prep on his journey to New York City.

Why does Holden leave Pencey three days early? ›

Finally, Ms. Morrow notes that Holden is going home earlier than he should, since Pencey Prep does not get out for the winter for another few days. Holden then makes up a lie that he is going home early because he has a brain tumor and needs surgery.

How does Holden's date end? ›

Holden tries to talk with Sally about things of real importance to Holden. He asks her to run off to Massachusetts and Vermont with him. The date ends badly, and he walks out. The dominating theme of Chapter 17 is compatibility, or lack of it, between couples.

What events lead Holden to leave Pencey at the end of Chapter 7? ›

Lonely and tormented by the suspicion that Stradlater may have had sex with Jane, Holden decides to leave Pencey and go to New York City until his parents learn he's been expelled.

Why do you think Holden was crying as he left Chapter 7? ›

He was deeply bothered by the thought of a possible sexual encounter between Stradlater and Jane, which led to his fight with Stradlater. He also eventually leaves Pencey and his departure does make him sad, as evidenced by his tears, but he refuses to admit it even to himself.

Why does Holden cry at the end of the chapter? ›

After the mother leaves, Phoebe loans Holden her Christmas money, which makes Holden cry.

What happens in the last chapter of Catcher in the Rye? ›

Chapter 25 concludes with Holden feeling happy as he watches Phoebe ride on the Central Park carousel. He confesses, “I was damn near bawling, I felt so damn happy.” But Holden also admits he doesn't know why he feels so happy, or why he's on the brink of tears.

Who does Holden decide to go see at the end of the chapter? ›

Holden wonders about his own mortality, which is a major part of his obsession with Allie's death. He wonders whether he is getting pneumonia and speculates on his family's reaction to his tragic passing. It would be especially hard on Phoebe, he concludes, so he leaves the park to see her.

Did Holden change at the end of the story? ›

Holden does evolve toward the end of the novel. His acceptance of Phoebe's need to "grab for the gold ring" indicates that he sees her as a maturing individual who must be allowed to live her own life and take her own risks. At this point, he finally sees that children have to do this, and adults must let them.

Why did Holden cry Chapter 14? ›

Standing his ground, Holden refuses to pay Maurice more money, so Maurice pins him while Sunny takes his wallet. At this point, Holden begins to cry and accuses Sunny and Maurice of stealing from him, so Maurice pushes him.

What mental illness did Holden Caulfield have? ›

Caulfield may be seen as suffering from a variety of mental illnesses including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This mental state could be a result of a variety of factors, including the death of his younger brother Allie, as well as witnessing the gruesome scene of a classmate's death.

What is a suicidal quote in Catcher in the Rye? ›

“What I really felt like, though, was committing suicide. I felt like jumping out the window. I probably would've done it, too, if I'd been sure somebody'd cover me up as soon as I landed. I didn't want a bunch of stupid rubbernecks looking at me when I was all gory.”

What is the first sentence of The Catcher in the Rye? ›

The first sentence of The Catcher in the Rye is: “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like ...

Did Stradlater Sleep with Jane? ›

Stradlater, Holden's super-sexual roommate, goes on a date with Jane. Holden, and readers, infer that Stradlater and Jane have sex, which is heartbreaking to Holden.

Is Holden in a mental hospital? ›

He was sent to a rest home, which is more commonly known as a hospital to treat his mental illness. He narrates the final part of the book from this institution, with a hopeful attitude towards the future.

What does Holden decide about staying at Pencey until Wednesday? ›

Fed up with Pencey Prep and all it stands for, Holden decides to leave and to stay at a hotel until he can go home on Wednesday.

What meal was always served on Saturday night at Pencey? ›

On Saturday night, the boys at Pencey always get steak for dinner. Why? Parents visit on Sunday, so, when they ask their son what he had for dinner last night, he'll say "steak."

What is the most important symbol in The Catcher in the Rye? ›

The red hunting hat is one of the most recognizable symbols from twentieth-century American literature. It is inseparable from our image of Holden, with good reason: it is a symbol of his uniqueness and individuality. The hat is outlandish, and it shows that Holden desires to be different from everyone around him.

Did Holden like Pencey Prep? ›

Pencey Prep is a school for boys and Holden dislikes it because feels that the people are fake and the whole place is fake.

What do the ducks symbolize in The Catcher in the Rye? ›

Although Salinger did not directly state it, he intended for Holden's curiosity about ducks to symbolize his desire to protect the childhood innocence that they represent. In addition, the ducks symbolize the uncertainty of the future.

Who does Holden say goodbye to Pencey? ›

Mr. Spencer was Holden's history teacher; history was one of the classes Holden failed. Holden had the desire to say goodbye to his teacher Mr. Spencer because he remembered this happy time at Pencey Prep.

What is Holden's final goodbye to Pencey Prep and why do you think Holden was crying when he left? ›

He didn't want to stay in the same room as Stradlater after their fight. Why do you think Holden was crying as he left Pencey Prep? He probably felt bad for getting kicked out of his schools over and over again, and he didn't get to say goodbye to anyone.

What is Pencey Prep like why is holden leaving how does he feel about leaving? ›

How does he feel about leaving? Pencey Prep is an institution full of phony people like Elkon Hills. Holden is leaving because he got kicked out cause he was flunking his classes and no one ever cared about him. Holden doesn't feel bad about leaving the school because school wasn't important to him.

What does Holden really wants before leaving Pencey Prep? ›

Salinger). Holden makes the rash decision to leave Pencey Prep because he does not want to wait until he gets expelled. He also does not want to be around his home when his parents get the letter telling them about his expulsion.

Why does Holden cry at the end? ›

After the mother leaves, Phoebe loans Holden her Christmas money, which makes Holden cry.

What does Holden Caulfield realize at the end? ›

At the very end of the book, Holden notices that he misses all the people he complained about. He finally realizes that, despite not being perfect, things, but especially people, can contribute greatly to our sense of meaning and happiness — but only if we're willing to get involved with them.

What is the last line of The Catcher in the Rye? ›

For sheer teenage disaffection, it's matched by the last line of Catcher in the Rye: "Don't tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." And also from the US, let's not forget Margaret Mitchell's ending to Gone With the Wind: "After all, tomorrow is another day." Pure hokum, like the novel.

What does the last line of The Catcher in the Rye mean? ›

From that, Holden is in the hospital. The last line of the book says, "Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody." From what I remember, this means that Holden made up all of those stories.

Does Holden blame himself for Allie's death? ›

Holden's relationship with Allie enables him to see "the beauty of a child's innocence," but he feels a great deal of guilt and "blames himself for not being able to 'catch' Allie[,] even though there was nothing he could do to save him from cancer." There is an appropriate, rather than rich, use of language about ...

How did Holden feel emotionally about leaving Pencey? ›

After Holden is expelled from Pencey Prep school for failing his classes, he cries as his feelings of depression and loneliness overcome him.

Why does packing his ice skates make Holden sad? ›

Why does packing his ice skates make Holden feel sad? Holden reflects that his mother bought him this thoughtful gift, and he is disappointing her again by being expelled. Every time someone gives him a gift, it ends up making him sad.


1. The Catcher in the Rye Complete audio Book Along with text | Rad and listen to Best Novel in Time
2. Summary of Chapters 16-26 of The Catcher in the Rye
(David Spencer)
3. EXPLORING The CATCHER in the RYE (Chapter 1)
(Garden of English)
4. Catcher in the Rye Intro and Chapter 1 Lesson
(Mrs. DeKoskie's English Class)
5. The Catcher In The Rye by J.D. Salinger | Learn English Through Story
(Smart Life Source)
6. The Catcher in the Rye by J D Salinger
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