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Summary of the Novel
JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye opens with a glimpse into the neurotic world of Holden Caufield, an adolescent from the New York region, who is finishing his term at a rural Pennsylvania boarding school.
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 going into it, if you want to know the truth.
We go on to learn in the next several pages that Holden has been kicked out of multiple preparatory schools, and is on the verge of being expelled from his current school, Pencey, as well. He shows no interest in finishing his classes (as he is failing four of his five courses for the term), and instead finds himself in a fight with one of his classmates and a supposed “friend.”
After that, Holden decides to return to the city early and, without telling his parents, stay in a hotel in Manhattan.
At each page, it is clear that Holden Caufield is battling severe neuroses, as he constantly switches between his decision, lying to his friends, teachers, and acquaintances, and asserts he simply doesn’t care, when the reality is he is truly bothered by his circumstances, and his inability to succeed in school.
In New York, Holden calls a stripper, hoping to persuade her to have sex with him, but is frustrated with the effort and quickly gives up, and goes to his hotel bar. He ambles around the city, alone, and eventually winds up in his hotel room with a prostitute, though then decides he doesn’t want to have sex.
He spends the next several days meandering around the city and meeting up with various acquaintances, each one of whom exemplifies a strained, awkward relationship with Holden, from former schoolmates to former girlfriends to friends of friends he’s never met.
Finally, Holden calls his sister and informs her that he plans to run away and never return home. She meets him for lunch with a bag packed, ready to join him, but Holden insists otherwise. He takes her to the carousel and as he watches her ride around, ends the story with vague allusions about how he then went back home and became “sick,” though the implication clearly refers to a mental illness.
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