Please give me a short summary of "The Catcher in the Rye"

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I will tell you what my students would say—an angsty teenage boy has a temper tantrum and tries to find himself in New York City.  Holden Caulfield is a fairly typical, misunderstood teen.  He is mildly obsessed with girls, does not do his schoolwork, feels disconnected from his parents, and thinks all people are fake.

One thing that is not typical about Holden is his loss: his brother Allie died from leukemia, and Holden really struggles with that.  His older brother, D.B., has moved to California, his little sister is at home with his parents, and sixteen-year-old Holden is at a boarding school where he does not quite fit in, wondering what his place in the world is.

When he gets expelled for failing all of his classes except two, he decides to loiter in New York City rather than go straight home and admit his failure to his parents.  He keeps trying to connect with people in New York—girls, cab drivers, old teachers, even a couple of nuns he meets at a bus stop.  However, every encounter leaves him feeling more isolated.  The only person he does connect with is his sister, Phoebe, but the relationship is tempered by Holden's feelings of responsibility toward her.

In the end, he gets "pretty run down" and has to go out to California to "rest," as he puts it.  We never get a full sense of what comes next for Holden—has the time in the psychiatric facility made him better or will he continue to mess up and feel overwhelmed? That is an answer every reader must come to on their own! Check out the eNotes study guide on this book for more information.

pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story is about a 16 year old boy named Holden Caulfield.  His story starts from a mental institution where he is currently undergoing treatment for a nervous breakdown which he suffered after being kicked out of Pencey Prep.  He had been kicked out of other schools before this, he continuously fails time after time.

Holden is a very depressed young man.  He is suffering from deep grief over the death of his younger brother, Allie, who died from Leukemia three years ago.  He cannot connect with his peers, he has no real friends at school, he fights with or critizes everyone around him.

Holden becomes very anxious after he fights with Stradlater over his date with Jane, leaves Pencey Prep without permission, days before he is supossed to, not letting his parents know where he is or where he is going.  He goes to NYC and gets into lots of trouble. 

He sneaks into his own apartment when his parents are out, he enjoys seeing his little sister, Phoebe, the only person in the book who he really trusts. 

He is afraid to grow up, he does not want to be an adult.  He would rather remain a child.  He dreams of being a catcher in the rye, literally catching children as they fall off  a cliff that is a symbol for childhood.  Holden wants to keep children in the innocence of childhood.

Adulthood is too scary, too phony, and not for Holden   

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The Catcher in the Rye

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