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