“The Catcher in the Rye” is a modern novel whose centre point aren’t the events but the character. The inner world (emotions, thoughts, conscious and subconscious) of the character are the centre of the novel. The character isn’t a hero, he’s actually an introvert who is just observing the world around himself and has no goals. The events are linked by the associations and thoughts of the main character.
The events aren’t chronological; they depend on the inner world of the character and the flow is interrupted by associations and monologues. The time and space decompose and aren’t inimitable like in the traditional novels and they are shown to us from a subjective perspective. The narrator is in the first person singular and the mostly used technique is the stream of consciousness.
The novel is told from the main character’s perspective and the characters are young people who rebel against the traditional values and the mediocre moral. Vulgarisms and colloquialisms are introduced into the narrating process. Holden Caulfield (the narrator and the main character) is a 17 years old high school student who gets kicked out of boarding school, wonders through New York and goes through an adolescent crisis and has an over average intelligence, considering his age, but is emotionally immature.
Holden Caulfield expresses his impression of the world, teenage system of value and states his opinions about adults, his friends, girls, art… He only wants to read the books of the authors he’d like to meet one day. He is severely critical towards society, hypocrisy, false values, snobbism, stereotypes and the social injustice. He stands up for honesty, spontaneity, authenticity and he has an ironic look at the world which can be seen in his way of talking and thinking.
He wears a red hat that has a double symbolic; known as the symbol of distinction between the grownups and the kids and the symbol of him hunting people all over New York the few days he spends there. He wants to be a catcher in the rye (verses by Robert Burns). His fantasy is to stand at the edge of a cliff and catch kids while they’re playing in the rye. It is considered to be one of the main motives because it’s linked to his brother’s death (Allie died of leukemia). The irony is that he is jumping from the cliff from which he wants to save the children.
The space descriptions have a symbolic value, for example, in the beginning Holden is in hotels and bars which show his inability to get along and his resistance because he is in places he isn’t supposed to be. The end of the novels shows the grownups’ world as a mummy’s world and his desire to go back to his childhood.
Theme: Holden’s adventures while he searched for himself
Genre: psychological-associative novel
Place: New York
Time: three days in December
The 17 years old Holden Caulfield from New York is placed into a psychiatric hospital on the west coast and he tells us all about the crisis he went through from last Christmas.
The young narrator tells his intensive events from a Saturday afternoon until Monday afternoon that led him to the state of emotional distress. He is still shocked because of his brother Allie’s death and can’t adjust to his school. He keeps his baseball glove written in lyrics.
In the beginning of the novel he is repulsed by the hypocrisy of the school system.
He only sees evil and problems all around himself. The whole world is fake for him, starting with the principal’s different behavior towards the students of different classes to the piano player that intentionally plays wrong so the crowd would like him all the way to the professional actors.
He got kicked out of three schools. Between Holden’s friend stands out Ackley, well known for his acne problem and the intolerance towards the people who are taller than him but even he is better that Stradlater, Holden’s roommate, whose only life purpose is to do nothing. He sucks up to the teachers, seduces the girls and does absolutely nothing in his life.
The two of them got into a fight over a girl, Jane Gallagher. Holden liked her but had a suspicion that Stradlater wanted to seduce her. After that incident Holden says his goodbyes to Professor Spencer and goes from Pencey to New York.
Holden is well aware that his parents will find out about his runaway in three days and that his mother will be sad while his father will be mad.
Since he had enough money, he decided to spend three awesome days before heading back to his parents and his reality.
He is about 5’10’’ and has grayish hair but still doesn’t look older that sixteen. He decides to stay in a suspicious hostel and goes to a lounge to drink a whiskey but the waiter doesn’t want to give him alcohol. He is repulsed an orders a Coke instead. After that he tries to pick up a girl that is in the company of two of her friends who he calls witches. He dances with them, pays for their drinks and in the end she rejects him like a child.
He is upset, takes a cab and goes to Ernie’s in Greenwich Village. It’s a place where everyone over 16 can get a drink.
In the cab he asks the driver a question that torments him and that is where the ducks from the Central Park go in the winter. The cab driver isn’t very talkative.
He came to Ernie’s and enjoys his drink. The surrounding is going to his nerves because everyone seems fake and the high school colleagues talk in vain and admire the music because they consider it to be very intellectual.
He encounters his brother D.B.’s ex. He went to Hollywood to write scripts but Holden believes that he is selling himself. He decides to win her over but he sees she is fake and only wants to get to his brother over him.
Depressed Holden goes back to the hotel where the liftboy offers him a prostitute. He accepts and when Sunny came into the room he can’t get along with the situation and pays her the 5 dollars he promised. She comes back with Maurice that takes Holden’s money and punches him in the stomach.
Holden experiences this event as a great humiliation for his first day in New York. The next day he left the hotel and went wandering around the streets of New York.
He called his friend Sally that he likes occasionally and arranges to meet her in the theatre. After that he encountered two nuns and gave them each ten bucks even though he was running out of money. He decides to wander down Broadway. He actually wanted to call Jane and his sister Phoebe. Phoebe is ten and Holden loves her a lot.
His visit to the theatre doesn’t go well as planned because Sally meets a student and all of them go ice skating together. Holden suggests for them to go to a forest camp, far away from the false lights of New York but Sally doesn’t accept his suggestion. Holden insults her and later regrets it. When he wanted to apologize it was too late because she wouldn’t accept it.
After that he called his acquaintance from long ago and they meet in a fancy bar. Holden enjoys the liquor and teases his friend who leaves soon and Holden goes to a park. He decided to see what happens to the ducks but rain started to fall.
He realizes he was running out of money so he decided to sneak into his parents’ home hoping to see Phoebe. He was lucky because his parents weren’t home and the maid was asleep.
His sister was happy to see him but soon she finds out he was kicked out of school and she tried to convince him that school was important. He told her how he was sick of school and she partly understood him
His parents got home and before he leaves, Phoebes reminds him once more of the importance of school. In the last second he told her he was heading for the west. He turned off the light and his mother walked into the room. Phoebe doesn’t want to admit that Holden was there and even takes the fault for the smell of cigarettes.
Holden sneaks out and goes to see his old English professor. Even though it’s early in the morning he welcomed him in. Holden listened to his words and another lecture about the importance of school. Finally Holden fell asleep on the couch.
In the middle of the night he is wakon up by his professor stroking his head and Holden gets scared that he is a homosexual so he went to sleep in the Grand Central train station.
In the morning he, once more, wandered the streets of New York, left a note for Phoebe in her school and arranges a meeting with her at a museum. Phoebe comes carrying a suitcase and she is very disappointed when her brother doesn’t let her go to the west with him.
They go to an amusement park where Holden convinces her to take a ride with him. While they were having fun it started to rain and Holden gave up on his runaway. He decided to face whatever was coming his way.
In the end Holden reveals that he is in a mental institution. The psychoanalyst was questioning him about his future behavior after he goes back to school. Holden answers that a man can’t know what will happen until it happens.
The novel ends with a short epilogue in which Holden informs us about his current state and his brother’s D.B.’s visit
Characters: Holden Caulfield, Spencer, Ackley, Stadlater, Jane Gallagher, Ed Banky, Earnest Marrow, misses Marrow, Faith Cavendish, Phoebe Josephine Caufield, Bernice Crabs, Earnie, Horwitz, Lillian Simmons, Sunny, Maurice, Arthur Childs, Sally Hayes, Louis Shanley, Harris Macklin, Carl Luce, mister Antolini.
Holden Caulfield – main hero of the novel. A rebellious 17 years old who got expelled from school for failing 4 classes even though he was smart and very good in English. His family lives in New York, he has a younger sister Phoebe, older brother D.B. who writes novel in Hollywood and he had a younger brother Allie who died of leukemia. He always wears a red hat that sets him apart from the grownup’s world.
He wants to prevent evil from happening to children so he wanted to look after them while they played. He considered the grownup’s world to be hypocritical and evil. He is overly sensitive and can’t adjust anywhere. Even though he seems like he’s all grown up he is still naïve and childlike sincere. He is drawn to the grownup’s world but still he finds it evil and can’t understand the insincerity of human relationships. He has a sense of humor and values children for their kindness and honesty. He understood them better than grownups did because he was a bit irresponsible and immature.
Ackley – a boy from the room next door at Pencey that Holden didn’t like much because he was boring.
Stradlater – Holden’s roommate who he also disliked because not noly was he egocentric but he also dated a girl Holden fancied.
Jane Gallagher – a girl with which Holden spent the entire summer and he still like her. The thought of her going out with his roommate was repulsing.
Phoebe Caulfield – Holden’s younger sister that was witty and smart.