The Catcher in the Rye review, characters and summary

The Catcher in the Rye


The Catcher in the Rye was originally issued on the 16th of July, 1951. Despite being intended for adults, the book is quite popular among teenagers as the book has multiple themes they can relate.

Spread in a total of 277 pages, it takes you through moments of a confused and contemplative teenager.

About The Author

The talented author, Jerome David Salinger, aka J.D. Salinger, was born on the 1st of January, 1919, in New York, US. His father was Jewish, and his mother was a Christian. Speaking of his education, he attended public schools and a military academy.

For a couple of years (1942–46), he was in the military. After his return, his style of writing became correlated with The New Yorker magazine. Besides The Catcher in the Rye, some of his well-known works are A Perfect Day for Bananafish, For Esme—with Love and Squalor, Franny and Zooey, and Hapworth 16, 1924.

It may come as a surprise, but Salinger didn’t win a literary award. That doesn’t mean he was a talented writer. Nevertheless, Lithuania did erect a sculpture in JD Salinger’s honor.

As for his personal life, he married three times. Sylvia Welter is his first wife, and Claire Douglas is his second wife. He was married to Colleen O’Neill from 1988 till his death in 2010 by natural causes. He has two children, Margaret Salinger and Matt Salinger from his second marriage.


Holden Caulfield is the story’s protagonist. The intelligent and sensitive guy is the narrator of the story. Then there is Phoebe Caulfield, his younger sister but more mature than him.

Other characters playing important roles are Mr. Antolini (Holden’s former English teacher), Jane Gallagher (a girl whom he met in Maine), Ward Stradlater (roommate of Holden), Robert Ackley (a student), Sally Hayes (Holden’s ex-girlfriend), Allie Caulfield (Holden’s dead younger brother), D.B. Caulfield (an author and Holden’s older brother), Mr. Spencer (Holden’s history teacher), Faith Cavendish (former burlesque stripper), and Sunny (a young prostitute).

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Holden talks to the audience directly from a sanitarium. The novel is a frame story assembled through Holden’s memory.

Holden starts at Pencey Prep. Being the fencing team’s manager, he loses the team’s equipment on the morning of a traditional football match with Saxon Hall, their rival. He is visiting Mr. Spencer’s home, his history teacher, to bid him farewell. Well, he has been expelled and is said not to come back even after the Christmas break.

After, Holden makes it to the dorm’s quiet place. However, as he begins to read, his peace is temporary. He is disturbed by Ackley first and later gets in an argument with Stradlater. Well, the roommates fight, and Stradlater wins it. Holden plans to reside in a hotel in NY City for a couple of days till his father and mother anticipate him to be back for Christmas vacation.

On his way to New York, Holden encounters a classmate’s mother and deceivingly lies about how famous her son is. His room at the Manhattan hotel faces the hotel’s other wing, where he sees varied behavior by perverts. He later meets three tourists from Seattle, all women, at the hotel lounge. He ends up with only a check after dancing with one. After a disappointing night at a nightclub, Holden decides to have a prostitute, Sunny. He changes his mind, though, and asks the girl to leave after paying. Unfortunately, he loses his second fight after getting a beating by Maurice, Sunny’s pimp, for more cash.

The next day Holden calls Sally and agrees to go to a play that afternoon. After having breakfast and checking in his luggage, he meets two nuns. He talks about Romeo and Juliet with one, who is an English teacher. He searches for Little Shirley Beans, a special record for Phoebe. Holden feels less depressed after spotting a boy who is singing, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.”

Later, Sally and Holden watch a Broadway play and also skate at Radio City but argue when Holden starts to tell things that he matters. Then, Holden sees the Christmas show and gets drunk after enduring a movie. He tries to find ducks at Central Park’s lagoon and manages to break the recording he had for his sister.
The brother-sister duo has a lovely bond. Holden shares he wants to be “the catcher in the rye.” After his parents’ arrival, he undetectably leaves to visit Mr. Antolini’s home. Even though he planned on living there for a few days, he leaves later.

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In the later part of the story, Holden plans to head west and live as a deaf-mute after parting and saying goodbye to Phoebe. Nevertheless, he agrees to stay after Phoebe insists on ongoing as well. He ends his story by watching his sister ride a carrousel in the rain.
In the last chapter, Holden doesn’t want to share more and is at a mental hospital missing his loved ones.


One of the story’s main themes is phoniness. Holden encounters many folks who seem phony to him. In the later parts of the story, the themes of sex and women can be experienced when Holden is in NY City with many sexual expectations.

Other themes throughout the book are growing up and childhood, depression, suicide, madness, religion, appearances, innocence, and death.

Strength and Weakness

JD Salinger has done a great job convincing people that a 16-year-old is telling the story. Another strength is the lead character’s moral ambiguity and his simpleness.

On the other hand, some readers might find it confusing when they can’t connect small incidents in the middle part. Furthermore, Holden’s frequent swearing could be unjustifiable to many.

My Take on The Book

Overall, the book depicts how a teenager might feel about the world they live in. Though considering the surrounding phony, all have their expectations which don’t match the reality. Having received 3.8/5 from Goodreads and 4.2/5 from Barnes & Noble, The Catcher in the Rye could help a person to know a teenager better regarding their desires and their need to alienate from society.

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