In the first seven chapters of The Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield provides numerous insights into his character. Since he is the first-person narrator, one could argue that the entire book acquaints us with him more than anyone else. Holden is a reflexive person, perhaps too much so. Not only his analysis of what is happening in his life, but his impressions of the people around him give many indicators of his fragile emotional and mental health. The first part of the book is set at his prep school and includes his impressions of other students.
Holden is having trouble in school because he does not take the work seriously and has trouble focusing. Intellectually, he is probably more gifted than most of his classmates, but he always feels that he does not fit in. Holden also doubts his own abilities and often belittles himself. This is apparent when he describes his reading habits.
I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot…. What really knocks me out is a book, that when you’re done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much….
As Holden waits for Stradlater to return from his date with Jane, he reflects on his problems with anxiety.
I was so damn worried…. When I really worry about something, I don’t just fool around. I even have to go to the bathroom when I worry about something. Only, I don’t go. I’m too worried to go. I don’t want to interrupt my worrying to go.
Although Holden did not enjoy living and studying at Pencey Prep, he is not happy to be leaving. This ambivalence is shown at the end of chapter 7 as he prepares to exit the dorm.
I was sort of crying. I don’t know why. I put my red hunting hat on, and turned the peak around to the back, the way I liked it, and then I yelled at the top of my goddam voice, “Sleep tight, ya morons!”