The Catcher in the Rye Summary

The Catcher In The Rye Summary
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The Catcher in the Rye is a novel by American author J.D. Salinger, with its full version published in 1951. Although The Catcher in the Rye was originally written for adults, due to its exploration of themes such as anxiety, alienation, and the phoniness of society, it has become a novel more commonly read by teenagers. Additionally, the novel addresses themes such as innocence, identity, belonging, loss, relationships, sexuality, and depression. The main character, Holden Caulfield, has become a symbol of teenage rebellion.

Summary Of The Catcher in the Rye

Holden Caulfield is writing from a rest home, stating that he will recount what happened to him just before last Christmas. His story begins at Pencey Prep, a school he is being expelled from for failing four subjects. On the day of the annual football game, a traditional event every student attends, Holden visits his elderly history teacher, Mr. Spencer.

Mr. Spencer emphasizes that life is a game that should be played according to the rules and that internalizing this is important for making future plans. Although Holden thinks of him as a kind of “phony” while listening, he outwardly pretends to agree. However, knowing he hasn’t put in enough effort, he resents Mr. Spencer for making him read a poor essay he wrote about Egyptian history. Eventually, he leaves Mr. Spencer’s house, claiming he needs to return to his room, and continues reading a book there.

In his room, Holden Caulfield encounters his annoying neighbor, Ackley. Later, his handsome roommate Ward Stradlater, who enjoys being the center of attention, enters. Holden asks why Stradlater has returned early and learns he has a date with a girl named Jane Gallagher. This surprises Holden because he knows Jane from when her family vacationed next door to his in Maine two years ago. Holden is disturbed by Stradlater’s nonchalant attitude about the date, suspecting he only cares about sleeping with her. Despite his unease, Holden agrees to write Stradlater’s English assignment, choosing to write about his deceased brother Allie’s baseball glove.

Despite the late hour, Stradlater finally leaves for his date. Holden continues to think about Jane and becomes increasingly agitated over Stradlater’s intentions. When Stradlater returns and criticizes Holden’s essay for not following the rules, Holden becomes angry and tears up the essay. He demands details about the date, leading to a heated argument.

Holden insults Stradlater, calling him a “moron,” which leads to a physical confrontation where Stradlater, despite having the physical advantage, pins Holden down and tells him to leave the room. Holden angrily shouts, “Sleep tight, ya morons!” before storming out. He decides to go to New York and takes a train, flirting with a middle-aged woman during the journey. Once in New York, he rents a room at the Edmont Hotel, but soon feels lonely and depressed, displaying erratic behavior.

At the hotel’s nightclub, he dances with a woman but finds her disingenuous, thinking of her as a “phony.” Later, D.B., Holden’s older brother, visits him at a piano bar, but Holden is unhappy with the bar’s atmosphere and returns to his hotel before events escalate. Back at the hotel, the elevator operator Maurice offers to send a prostitute to Holden’s room for five dollars. Holden agrees, but when the prostitute Sunny arrives, he feels uncomfortable and claims he can’t have sex due to a recent surgery. Sunny demands ten dollars, but Holden only gives her five. Shortly after, Sunny returns with Maurice, who punches Holden in the stomach while Sunny takes the additional five dollars.

The next morning, Holden arranges a date with Sally Hayes, a girl he doesn’t particularly like but finds attractive and is lonely. Ideally, he would call Jane Gallagher but feels he is never in the right “mood” to do so and doesn’t prepare for his date with Sally.

Instead, he roams the city and hears a child singing, “If a body catch a body coming through the rye.” The child’s innocent voice and the beauty of the song move Holden. Later, he sneaks home to see his younger sister Phoebe, waking her up. He tells her he plans to leave home and live on a farm in Colorado. Phoebe, realizing he has been expelled again, is disappointed but still supportive. She asks him what he wants to do with his life, and Holden replies that he wants to be a “catcher in the rye,” saving children from falling over the edge of a cliff.

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